Ireland spectrum auction prepares platform for LTE

Thus far, Ireland has been a laggard with LTE, with developments limited to trials by hardware providers such as Ericsson using test licences. However, the recent auction by the regulator for spectrum in several bands (800MHz, 900MHz and 1800MHz) will enable the four MNOs which secured licences (Vodafone Ireland, O2 Ireland, Meteor Mobile and 3 Ireland) to expedite their plans to launch commercial services during 2013.

Spectrum has been awarded in two Time Slices: Time Slice 1 from February 2013 to July 2015, and Time Slice 2 from July 2015 to July 2030. The 800MHz band was made available from October 2012 following the switch-over from analogue to digital broadcasting.

The government in the meantime secured almost €855 million from the auction, of which a proportion will be collected the usage fees during the course of the licences. The auction was part of the government’s efforts to raise €700 million as part of the financial conditions reached with the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2011.

To ensure that the licensees do not flag in their investment commitments (O2 alone is planning to invest an additional €200 million in network upgrades to facilitate its LTE deployment), the regulator has stipulated that they must provide 70% population coverage within three years.

For operators, the move to LTE will be crucial in order to ameliorate the continuing fall in revenue. Overall voice revenue has slid since 2009, only partly offset by revenue from mobile data services. For all operators, non-SMS data revenue represents a growing proportion of total revenue – in the case of O2, broaching 48%. Given that developments in VoLTE will further reduce voice revenue, the key to their business in coming years will be to develop affordable data services which interest customers, leading to subscriber stickiness.

Henry Lancaster,
Senior Analyst

For more information, see the updated report Ireland – Mobile Market Insights, Statistics and Forecasts

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