DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland has raised 855 million euros (694 million pounds) at an auction of fourth-generation mobile phone licences, providing a welcome boost to the country's struggling finances.
"The proceeds of the auction are greater than many people expected and are a statement of confidence in the economy," Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said on Thursday.
The winners will pay 482 million euros upfront and the balance over the life of licences which are valid until 2030.
"We can now look forward to the rollout of much needed faster, fourth-generation 4G mobile internet services which will maintain and boost this country's competitiveness," Rabbitte said.
He did not give a timetable for 4G networks to be operational. Ireland is catching up countries such as Britain where regulator Ofcom expects mobile operators to be able to provide 4G services from June.
Mobile operators Eircom-owned Meteor Mobile, Hutchison Whampoa's Three (0013.HK), Telefonica Ireland (TEF.MC) and Vodafone Ireland (VOD.L) secured the licences.
Vodafone won the most spectrum and Three got the least.
Hutchison Whampoa, the Hong Kong-based conglomerate that operates the mobile brand 3 in Ireland, said the new spectrum will enable it to improve network coverage nationwide and increase speeds to up to 180 Mbps.
(Reporting by Lorraine Turner; Editing by Dan Lalor)