NBN Co forks out $1.3m for spectrum

The NBN wholesaler joined Telstra and Unwired subsidiary, BKAL, as the highest bidders for the total of 40 licences in the 2.3GHz band

NBN Co has shelled out $1.3 million for 24 radio spectrum licences across the country, bidding alongside Telstra and Unwired subsidiary, BKAL, in an auction run by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The spectrum licences acquired by NBN Co were in the 2.3GHz band and covered regional and remote areas in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia, outback Queensland and far west NSW.

According to NBN Co, the purchase has given the company the geographical coverage needed to construct its wireless network, which it says is on track for completion in 2015.

The 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network will combine with NBN Co’s long-term satellite service to offer a 12 megabits per second (Mbps) service to the 7 per cent of Australians not covered by the NBN’s fibre infrastructure.

Telstra spent a total of $304,300 on 12 licences, while BKAL bought four licences at a cost of $37,300. A further eight licenses in the 2.3GHz band will be offered to BKAL at the predetermined prices as it was the only applicant for them.

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s auction as it means we can provide high-speed wireless services to some of the most poorly served areas as a priority,” NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, said in a statement. “We are on target to provide wireless broadband services up to five years earlier than some areas earmarked for fibre.”

NBN Co earlier this year purchased spectrum from subscription television provider, Austar, for some $120 million.

Under the deal, NBN Co paid $58 million for an Austar subsidiary, which held spectrum licences for the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands, with a further $62 million paid for the assignment of the subsidiary’s debt.

In June, Ericsson and construction firm Silcar were awarded two major NBN Co contracts, with Ericsson signing a 10-year $1.1 billion contract to build and operate the wireless network.

The NBN wholesaler also recently awarded Optus and IPSTAR contracts worth a total $300 million for managed satellite services to the three per cent of Australian premises falling outside the planned fibre coverage.

To qualify for the Interim Satellite Service, those in rural and remote areas are subject to a service qualification process with first priority given to those who have no access to alternate broadband.

The satellites offer a wholesale satellite service capable of peak download speeds up to 6Mbps, dependent on the specific retail service provider (RSP), the number of users on the service and customers’ own in-premise connection.

The ACMA has also flagged plans to move ahead with its auction of spectrum in the 700MHz and 2.5GHz bands, scheduled to take place in the second half of 2012, with the 700MHz band part of the 'digital dividend' delivered by the phasing out of analog TV signals.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags broadbandNational Broadband Network (NBN)Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)

More about Austar EntertainmentEricsson AustraliaetworkOptusQuigleyTelstra CorporationUnwired Australia

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