Waiting for third-generation spectrum

Third-generation mobile services may not be available for more than two years, but telco officials have raised doubts over how urgent the introduction of 3G actually is.

According to the Australian Communications Authority (ACA), most of the 3G spectrum to be auctioned off by the government agency early next year is already currently licensed. Following the auction, existing licence holders are allowed by law to take two years before they have to cease transmitting data via their allocated frequencies.

The current licence holders are allowed to enter into commercial agreements regarding early adoption of the 1900-1980MHz spectrum by successful bidders in the auction.

However, Ericsson's 3G campaign manager, Tony Cullen, said that "3G-type" mobile services were already available via existing GPRS second-generation networks.

Moreover, Cullen believes a two-year wait may be necessary for carriers and network suppliers to measure the user demands of 2G to ensure a "smooth evolution" into 3G. "Services are more important than technology," he said.

Second-generation mobile services include basic mobile internet access offerings such as email, share prices and movie timetables. Third-generation mobile would shift into streaming audio and video access, Cullen said.

He added that carriers had already started developing "packet" connectivity offerings, whereby mobile customers are billed according to the amount of data downloaded onto their handset, rather than the time connected to the network.

Most 3G spectrum (between 1900 and 1980MHz) licences are currently owned by Telstra. The ACA issued a discussion paper on Monday inviting suggestions regarding the re-allocation of 3G spectrum following next year's auction.

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