Five operators win share of 350 MHz of spectrum, including new entrant Airspan.

Ireland this week completed its 3.6-GHz auction, raising €78 million from five successful bidders, including a new player.

The 350 MHz of nationwide spectrum was offered by regulator ComReg in lots spread over nine regions – four of them rural, five urban.

"The result of the 3.6-GHz award represents a very good outcome for consumers, service providers and ComReg," said ComReg chairman Gerry Fahy. "All 350 MHz of available spectrum, across the entire country, has been assigned at an important time as demand for wireless communications services continues to grow."

Vodafone paid the most, picking up 105 MHz and 85 MHz in every urban and rural region respectively, with a bid totalling €22.73 million in upfront fees and spectrum usage fees.

3 Ireland bid €20.37 million for 100 MHz across rural and urban regions, while Meteor Mobile, the mobile arm of incumbent Eircom, won 80 MHz in rural regions and 85 MHz in cities, paying €15.7 million.

Fixed-wireless operator Imagine won 60 MHz of rural 3.6-GHz spectrum with a bid of €9.77 million. It did not acquire any urban spectrum.

Finally, a new entrant in Airspan – which focuses on the smart utilities, transportation and public safety markets – paid €9.63 million for 25 MHz of rural spectrum, and 60 MHz of urban spectrum.

ComReg said the release of 3.6-GHz spectrum has increased the amount of harmonised frequencies for cellular services by 86%.

"The characteristics of this band, coupled with its 5G potential, should ensure Ireland is well positioned to benefit from new technology and service enhancements in the years to come," Fahy said.

The licences come into effect this year and will run for 15 years, expiring at the end of July 2032.