Only three companies have submitted bids for 3G licences in the Republic of Ireland. The bids address five of a possible six licences up for grabs.
The Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation (ODTR) auction closed last night with Hutchison Whampoa, Vodafone Ireland and mm02 as the sole bidders.
Orange and Irish operator Meteor, which both expressed an interest in the 20-year licences, did not submit bids.
Two types of licence were on offer. An 'A' licence costs EU50.7m, covers around 80 per cent of Ireland's population and potentially provides extra spectrum for Mobile Virtual Network Operator services.
The 'B' licences cover the country's five major cities, estimated to be around 53 per cent of the population, but cost around double that of the 'A' licence.
'B' licence holders will not be obliged to provide coverage outside cities, and also have a more relaxed time scale for rolling out services.
Hutchison Whampoa applied for a single 'A' licence, while mm02 and Vodafone plumped for both licences.
The ODTR has introduced a new method of charging for the licences following the enormous up-front payments made by winning operators in a variety of other European auctions since 2000. An 'A' licence will cost EU50.7m, and a 'B' licence EU114.3m.
Winning bidders for 'A' licences will have to pay EU27m up front, and then pay the balance over the next 15 years. 'B' licence winners will have to cough up an initial EU44.4m, again paying the balance over the next 15 years.
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