Aust govt to reap A$1b for BWA spectrum

Nicole McCormick
13 Jan 2010

The Australian regulator is considering freeing up most of the 2.5 GHz spectrum for broadband wireless access (BWA) services as part of a planned sell-off of frequencies that could reap more than A$1 billion ($920.1m).

Incumbent mobile operators Telstra, Optus and Vodafone Hutchison Australia are seeking spectrum at both 700 Mhz and 2.5 Ghz for the deployment of LTE.

Currently, the most of the 2500-2690 MHz spectrum is being used by free-to-air terrestrial networks for electronic news gathering purposes, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) discussion paper on the future use of spectrum at 2.5

“The ACMA believes that an appropriate outcome from this review might be to convert ENG apparatus licenses to spectrum licenses in part of the 2.5 Ghz band and to re-allocate the remainder of the band for WAS [wireless access services],” the discussion paper states.

Auctioning the spectrum to BWA providers also appears to be on the agenda.

“If a decision is taken to move to a price-based allocation of at least some of the 2.5 Ghz band, then the ACMA would also consult on the precise geographic areas and amount of spectrum that might be reallocated,” adds the paper.

For its part, Telstra is considering using 2.5 GHz to deploy LTE in metropolitan areas. While it’s unlikely to refarm its 850 Mhz spectrum for LTE since this is being heavily used by its Next G customers, it could refarm spectrum at 900 MHz for rural LTE deployment. It is also looking at the 700 MHz “digital dividend” spectrum for LTE rollouts.

Last week, the Australian Government released a discussion paper on how to allocate 700 MHz spectrum for BWA. The move could see the incumbents emerge with 2x20 MHz of paired spectrum apiece at 700 MHz for LTE.

Australia’s opposition party believes that wireless broadband services should be rolled out in conjunction with fixed broadband technology. It opposes the government’s A$43 billion National Broadband Network plan to deploy FTTN services to 95% of the Australian population.

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