Despite vigorous competition between Ireland's MNOs in the 2012 Multi-Band Spectrum Auction ("MBSA"), three blocks of 1800 MHz spectrum remained unassigned.  Applications for the unassigned spectrum were due by 13 December 2013. The winner(s) were expected to be announced by 3 January 2014, with the relevant blocks available for use by 1 February 2014.

Although this might have seemed like a golden opportunity for those that lost out in the MBSA, the three lots of 2 x 5 MHz of 1800 MHz spectrum in question were only unassigned in the first time slice (ie, 13 July 2013 – 12 July 2015).  Hutchison 3G Ireland Limited ("Three") obtained rights to these lots in the second time slice (ie, 13 July 2015 – 12 July 2030).  Given that all MNOs obtained rights to some 1800 MHz spectrum in time slice 1 and the fact that the rights acquired will expire in just over a year, the precise value of such lots to each of the MNOs was difficult to gauge; the reserve price per lot was nevertheless set in line with that in the MBSA process (adjusted for inflation) ie, €0.794 million. In addition to the upfront fee, winning bidders would be required to pay an annual spectrum usage fee of €0.54 million (which will be adjusted for inflation).  Licences awarded would expire on 12 July 2015 in line with existing MBSA licences granted for time slice 1.

Most interest was expected to come from Vodafone and Meteor as the lots in question directly border their existing 1800 MHz blocks.  However, ComReg confirmed on 7 January that no valid applications were received and the lots remain unsold under the MBSA.  ComReg has discretion as to how to treat the unsold lots. It has confirmed (in line with the rules under the MBSA) that unsold spectrum will not be reallocated for at least 1 year. Given the limited duration of the rights (ie, until 12 July 2015), the value of any rights post-January 2015 is however questionable.

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