The Australian government has proposed issuing “digital dividend” spectrum at 700MHz for mobile broadband services in 2011 or 2012, according to a new discussion paper, “Digital Dividend Green Paper.”
The spectrum issue would potentially see each of the country’s three incumbents – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone Hutchison Australia –emerge with 2x20MHz of paired spectrum at 700 MHz for LTE.
“Engineering consultancy firm Kordia found that it is possible for 126 MHz of UHF spectrum to be released as a digital dividend,” the paper states. “[But] restacking of digital broadcast services would need to occur in order to release this spectrum as a contiguous block.”
In late-March 2008, the 700MHz spectrum auctions in the US earned almost $19 billion for the government’s coffers, almost double original estimates.
Australian mobile analyst for consultancy firm Ovum, Nathan Burley, notes that operators won’t be able to offer LTE services nationally at 700MHz until 2014 under the proposal.
“Australia’s analogue channels are not due to be switched off until the end of 2013,” Burley told Telecom Asia. “The earliest any operator will be able to offer LTE services in this proposed spectrum nationally is 2014.
“Presumably operators can deploy LTE in other bands, such as 2.5-2.7 GHz, earlier than 2014. Operators may potentially also be able to deploy LTE [at 700MHz] in regional areas in 2013, but this depends on when digital channels are restacked.”
The discussion paper did not float how the 700MHz spectrum is to be issued, but an auction of the frequency band is widely-expected.
For its part, Telstra won’t be able to partake in the 700MHz auction unless it agrees to the government’s structural separation plans, under the current proposed legislation.
“Telstra will likely find some agreement with the government to protect itself from being barred from this auction,” adds Burley.