Irish operators have agreed to pay almost €80m (£70m/$90m) for 5G networks in the country despite the spectrum not likely to be launched until 2021.

Vodafone, 3 Ireland, Meteor, Imagine and Airspan have paid €57m in the government’s latest auction and have pledged a further €21m over a 15-year licensing period.

5G has been designed to meet the needs of next-generation mobile networks by pooling bandwidth to boost range and speed. Average speeds of 100Mbps are expected, with 5G able to handle more data, connect more devices, significantly reduce latency and bring new levels of reliability.

Telecoms regulator Comreg said that the 3.6Ghz frequency, used mainly by wireless mobile operators in Ireland, can be used for some 5G mobile services.

According to the Irish Independent, Comreg re-auctioned the band to facilitate more capacity for mobile operators and other broadband companies.

“The result of the 3.6GHz award represents a very good outcome for consumers, service providers and ComReg,” said Comreg chairman Gerry Fahy.

“All 350MHz of available spectrum, across the entire country, has been assigned at an important time as demand for wireless communications services continues to grow. Continuity for existing services has been underpinned and the possibility of new services has been significantly enhanced.

“In particular 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.”

Vodafone will pay the most, with €23m pledged for 85MHz in rural regions and 105MHz in the cities. Newcomer Airspan and Imagine, the country’s largest wireless broadband operator, will pay €10m.

Robert Finnegan, chief executive of 3 Ireland, said: “We had two objectives going into this auction. First, we wanted to ensure that those living outside main city areas could enjoy the same service as urban dwellers, by securing uniform spectrum frequency for all rural and urban areas. Secondly, we wanted this uniform spectrum to be 100MHz as this is the recognised optimum bandwidth for 5G and is internationally recommended to support 5G in spectrum bands below 6GHz.”

UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced a commitment to 5G in the Autumn Statement last November. He has dedicated £740m to be used for the development of 5G, but mentioned no set launch date for the 5G service.

According to a recent report, the National Infrastructure Commission said: “5G means seamless connectivity. Ultra-fast, ultra-reliable, ultra-high capacity transmitting at super low latency. It will support the ever-larger data requirements of the existing network and new applications from augmented reality to connected vehicles and the Internet of Things, and many more, as unknowable today as the 4G services we take for granted would have been a decade ago.”