AAPT exits Australian 3G auction on eve of launch

Telecom New Zealand Ltd. has pulled its AAPT Ltd. subsidiary out of the Australian third generation wireless (3G) spectrum auction on the eve of its launch.

AAPT Spectrum Pty. Ltd. was one of seven contenders in the auction, which begins today. But last night the company issued a statement saying AAPT had withdrawn its registration.

The statement said Telecom New Zealand would, "continue to assess strategic opportunities for an expanded presence in the Australian mobile market and its decision in respect of the auction is not inconsistent with this."

"As indicated previously, Telecom New Zealand is talking about opportunities with various parties. The company will not identify those parties or comment on the substance of discussions at this stage."

Telecom New Zealand's interest in acquiring the Optus Mobile Pty. Ltd. network has been no secret, but some observers suspect such a purchase would be beyond Telecom New Zealand's resources, especially without the help of a larger player, such as Japan's NTT DoCoMo Inc.

Optus is among the players who will go into the auction today, along with CKW Wireless Pty Ltd., Hutchison Telecommunications Australia Ltd., Telstra 3G Spectrum Holdings Pty Ltd., Vodafone Pacific Pty Ltd. and 3G Investments (Australia) Pty Ltd.

The original seven bidders have already paid the Australian Communications Authority A$830 million (US$419.2 million) in "eligibility payments" and it is not clear whether AAPT will get all its cash back. Optus, Telstra, Vodafone, and 3G Investments took out the maximum eligibility allowed under the competition limits for the auction.

Competition limits already set for the auction mean that a bidder can acquire no more than 25 percent of the available spectrum in state and territory capital cities, and no more than 50 percent of the available spectrum in regional areas.

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More about 3G InvestmentsAAPTAustralian Communications AuthorityCKW WirelessDoCoMoHutchisonHutchison Telecommunications (Aust)NTT AustraliaOptusTelecom New ZealandTelstra 3G Spectrum HoldingsTelstra CorporationVodafoneVodafone Pacific

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