Ireland takes one step closer to 4G wireless spectrum auctions

16 Mar 2012

ComReg tonight revealed fresh new details about the upcoming wireless spectrum auctions for the 800Mhz, 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum bands. It is expected the auctions will take place closer to the summer.

Ireland’s telecoms regulator tonight issued a further consultation on the spectrum auctions. Last week reported that operators that have money to invest in the next generation infrastructure are impatient for the auctions to begin, with hundreds of millions of euros standing by.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte TD told this week that he expects the auctions to take place before the summer.

Provided there are no further objections the latest consultation should be the final step before a date for the auctions is set.

The spectrum auctions are critical because as well as paving the way for 4G technologies like LTE that are featured in the new iPad with speeds up to 73Mbps possible, former 2G bands can be used to provide 3G coverage to greater swathes of the population.

In total, 280 MHz of sub-2 GHz spectrum (i.e. 140 MHz of paired spectrum) will be made available, more than doubling the currently licensed assignments in these particular bands.

ComReg said that it will be a combinatorial clock auction, meaning that it allows bidders to make packaged bids over multiple rounds of bidding within a prescribed timeframe;

The winners of spectrum will be those who make the highest bids.

“The first phase of the auction will determine the quantity of spectrum that a winning bidder is awarded and the second phase will determine the exact frequencies within the spectrum bands;

“To accommodate the current expiry dates of GSM licence assignments, spectrum rights of use will be auctioned across two time periods, applicable to each of the three bands being auctioned. The first period will run from 1 February 2013 to 12 July 2015 and the second period will run from 13 July 2015 to 12 July 2030.

“To safeguard competition, there will be limits on the maximum amount of spectrum rights of use that any one bidder can acquire, either as a single entity or in combination with other bidders,” ComReg said.

The regulator said that in order ensure the optimal use of these important spectrum bands, spectrum rights of use in these bands are subject to a minimum price of currently calculated as €20m per lot of 5 MHz of paired sub-1 GHz spectrum, and €10m per lot of 5 MHz of paired 1800 MHz spectrum for a 15 year licence.

Winning bidders will be required to pay a portion of this amount up-front, with the remainder paid annually over the duration of the licence.

Ireland’s wireless spectrum auctions – the lots

·        The 800 MHz band is the frequency range 791-821MHz paired with 832-862 MHz which comprises six paired 5 MHz lots.

·        The 900 MHz band is the frequency range 880-915 MHz paired with 925-960 MHz which comprises seven paired 5 MHz lots.

·        The 1800 MHz band is the frequency range 1710-1785 MHz paired with 1805-1880 MHz which comprises fifteen paired 5 MHz lots.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years