ACMA begins new push to flog off spectrum

Launches auction for 1800MHz, 2GHz, 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has launched its auction for spectrum in the 1800MHz, 2GHz, 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands.

“We anticipate the spectrum will be used for mobile or fixed wireless broadband services with the majority of lots available being in regional areas,” said ACMA Chair, Nerida O’Loughlin.

“But we have also built flexibility into the technical frameworks for each band, allowing for other uses as well.”

The lots on offer include the 1800MHz spectrum that failed to sell at the ACMA-run 2015 auction. Telstra and Optus emerged with the lion’s share of the regional spectrum on offer at that auction, with TPG and Vodafone also picking up spectrum in the 1800MHz band.

On offer in the latest auction are 39 lots: Five in the 1800MHz band; nine in 2GHz, 11 in 2.3GHz, and 14 in 3.4GHz.

The allocation of 1800MHz spectrum is capped at 2x25MHz for a single bidder, with current holdings taken into account.

When the federal government in September announced it would auction off more spectrum, it said it would scrap previous allocation limits in the 2GHz band in line with advice from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The retained 1800MHz limits largely rule out Telstra or Optus picking up more spectrum in the band.

“Current allocation limits will prevent Telstra from acquiring any of the 1800MHz lots available in the omnibus spectrum auction except for one 2x5 MHz lot in Maryborough (South Queensland) and prevent Optus from acquiring available lots in Mackay and Dubbo,” the ACCC’s advice to communications minister Senator Mitch Fifield noted. “TPG and VHA can acquire any of the available lots.”

In October, the ACMA began the process of reallocating spectrum in the 3.6GHz band for use in 5G services.

Last month the federal government detailed its 5G strategy, which includes making 5G-friendly spectrum available in a timely manner.

The arrival of 5G in Australia will represent “an inflection point not just for the telecoms sector but also for the entire Australian economy,” Fifield said in a speech earlier this year.

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