TPG says it welcomes a decision by the government to ditch previously mooted plans to sell spectrum in the 700MHz band to Vodafone Hutchison Australia.
Instead the government announced today that the Australian Communications and Media Authority would hold an auction to dispose of the 2x15MHz left over after the 2013 Digital Dividend spectrum sell-off.
Along with Telstra and Optus, TPG stridently opposed a draft ministerial direction that, if implemented, would have seen Vodafone pay $590 million for most of the remaining 700MHz spectrum.
“As I have previously stated, we believe that wireless connectivity will play an increasing role in the future needs of the Australian telecommunications consumers,” TPG CEO and chairperson David Teoh said in a statement after the government's decision was made public.
“We have recently invested in 1800MHz spectrum and would be keen to augment that purchase with 700MHz spectrum.”
TPG along with Vodafone, Optus and Telstra picked up 1800MHz spectrum earlier this year.
In addition, Telstra, Optus and TPG also picked up spectrum in the 2.5GHz band that was auctioned as part of the Digital Dividend.
There would be significant long-term benefits if TPG secured spectrum in the 700MHz band, Teoh said.
The announcement today by communications minister Senator Mitch Fifield said that the government would seek advice from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on spectrum allocation limits, a move that Teoh said was “particularly pleasing”.
“Access to spectrum represents the ultimate barrier to entry in this market,” Teoh said. “Existing providers, particularly those with substantial existing spectrum holdings, including in the 700MHz band, might have an incentive to limit the ability of a fourth entrant to secure spectrum. We will be making submissions to the ACCC that they recommend allocation limits that will have the best outcomes for competition and consumers.”
Vodafone walked away from the Digital Dividend auction, while Telstra picked up 2x20 MHz of 700MHz spectrum and Optus 2x10MHz as well as the spectrum in the 2.5GHz that the telcos won.
“We have today been advised of the government’s decision to proceed with an auction and we are currently considering our options,” a Vodafone spokesperson said.Read more: Ex Telstra chair Catherine Livingstone appointed CBA chairperson
“In April this year, Vodafone made a substantial offer to government to acquire some of the unutilised 700MHz spectrum which would allow us to expand our network and offer increased competition to Australian consumers in regional and rural areas,” the spokesperson for the telco said.
Optus said it supports an ACMA auction of the unallocated 700 MHz spectrum. “This will improve competitive access to 4G services in regional Australia,” a spokesperson said.
Telstra has been approached for comment.