The Irish telecommunications regulator, ComReg, has published the preliminary results of the award of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band in Ireland, paving the way for future 5G services.
DotEcon advised ComReg on all aspects of the design and implementation of this award process, and the auction was run using DotEcon’s online bidding platform, WebBidder.
The spectrum was offered on a regional basis, dividing Ireland into nine regions (four rural and five urban), to facilitate coexistence of mobile and fixed wireless access services (for which the spectrum is currently being used). A total of 350 MHz was offered, using a TDD band plan in two frequency ranges separated by a frequency block currently allocated to state services. In each region, 66 lots were offered:
- a single 25 MHz frequency-specific lot below state services (the A-lot); and
- sixty-five 5 MHz frequcency-generic lots above state services (the B-lots).
Licences will last for 15 years, expiring on 31 July 2032, and are subject to annual Spectrum Usage Fees.
ComReg used a Combinatorial Clock Auction (CCA) with relaxed activity rules, similar to that successfully used in Ireland for the Multi-Band Spectrum Award (MBSA) in 2012. The main stage of the auction established the number of lots of each type in each region to be awarded to each bidder. The combinatorial format ensured that bidders could combine regional lots together (for instance into a national licence) without risk of winning some, but not all, of the lots of interest.
A follow-on assignment stage then determined the specific frequencies to be assigned to B-lot winners, with winning bidders expressing preferences over particular frequency locations within the band (assignment options), subject to contiguous frequencies being assigned to each winner. The determination of assignment options included a rule to ensure the frequencies assigned to each winning bidder across different regions overlapped as much as possible; this reduced spectrum fragmentation that might otherwise have arisen from the regional structure of the auction.
In addition, the auction included a novel feature that gave the the B-lot winners an option to team up as ‘Alliances’ for the assignment stage; an Alliance would bid in the assignment stage as a single bidder, with its assignment options generated as if the Alliance members were a single winning bidder in the main stage. This was implemented in light of ComReg’s recognition that there might be some benefit to regional operators of having spectrum holdings that are aligned with one another across regions.
The auction concluded with all of the available spectrum being allocated to five winning bidders, who will jointly pay around €78m (including up front fees established in the auction and annual spectrum usage fees):
- Airspan won 25 MHz in the rural regions and 60 MHz in the urban regions, at a price of €9.64m
- Imagine won 60 MHz in all four rural regions, paying €9.77m
- Meteor has been awarded 80 MHz in the rural regions and 85 MHz in each of the urban regions, for a total of €15.66m
- Three won 100 MHz across all regions for €20.37m
- Vodafone was awarded 85 MHz in the rural regions, and 105 MHz in the urban regions, paying €22.73m
Airspan and Imagine made use of the option to form an Alliance and bid jointly in the assignment round.
Further details on the award results can be found on ComReg’s website.