Digital dividend wireless spectrum to be auctioned in late 2012

Government confirms it will sell off 126MHz of spectrum for wireless communication services after analogue TV is switched off

The Federal Government has confirmed it will sell off 126 Megahertz of ultra-high frequency (UHF) spectrum to be used for delivering wireless communication services after analogue TV is switched off at the end of 2013.

Early this year, the Federal Government called for responses on how best to cash-in on the digital switchover as part of the Digital Dividend Green Paper.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy released the paper which detailed the government’s plan to sell-off the spectrum, estimated to generate $1 billion in revenue, according to communications minister, Stephen Conroy.

In a statement today, Conroy said the spectrum would be released as a contiguous block in the upper UHF band comprising the 694 to 820MHz range.

It is expected some of this spectrum will be used for high-speed wireless broadband like 4G contender, LTE, being trialled by both Telstra and Optus.

"The ability to have high capacity internet access in a range of locations is proving valuable to users of 3G networks both in Australia and overseas, and demand is growing rapidly,” Conroy said in a statement.

The spectrum will be auctioned off in the latter half of 2012.

The sell-off is also forecast to pump as much as $10 billion into the economy, according to 2009 research.

The ACMA said it will release a public discussion paper in the third quarter of this year "setting out planning and allocation issues and options for new spectrum licences".

"Yielding the digital dividend will require the closest of cooperation with the free-to-air television industry," ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, said in a statement. "Other uses of affected broadcasting spectrum will also require consultation and the development of options for future operations. For example, some wireless microphones used for stage productions and small scale public address will be affected by this decision.

"The ACMA is confident that suitable spectrum will be found for the continuation of wireless microphone operation."

Ericsson Australia/NZ general manager, Kursten Leins, said the company welcomed the move as an important step for the development and deployment of LTE networks, which would bring "a significant amount of certainty to the telco industry".

"The certainty of spectrum availability is critical for Australian operators to make investment plans for Long Term Evolution (LTE) deployment in this country, and also to determine how to most efficiently grow existing mobile broadband infrastructure and capacity to meet forecast demand," Leins said in an emailed statement.

According to Leins, the digital dividend sell-off would allow operators to serve areas "three of four times greater" than current 3G services operating at higher frequencies.

Telstra currently operates in the lowest frequency range, using 850MHz for its Next G services. The telco has been looking at purchasing further wireless spectrum, which it is now able to do due to amendments to legislation surround Telstra's separation and other possible sanctions.

Similar spectrum spectrum auctions were held in Germany and the US in the recent past in anticipation of fourth-generation mobile broadband networks. US carrier, Verizon, won the 700MHz spectrum auctioned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) two years ago, but is yet to utilise it for its own network.

Additional reporting by James Hutchinson.

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Tags wirelesslteSenator Stephen ConroyDigital dividend

More about Ericsson AustraliaEricsson AustraliaFCCFederal Communications CommissionFederal GovernmentOptusTelstra CorporationVerizonVerizon

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