Australia completes $616m 5G auction

Fiona Chau and Dylan Bushell-Embling
12 Dec 2018

Four operators have collectively paid around A$853 million ($616.02 million) for 3.6-GHz 5G spectrum in Australia's latest spectrum auction.

All 350 lots of 3.5-GHz spectrum were sold. The market's largest operator Telstra has secured the highest number of lots at 143, with total bids of $386.01 million.

Rival operator Optus meanwhile will pay $185.07 million for 47 lots of 3.6-GHz spectrum, while a joint venture established between Vodafone Australia and fixed line focused TPG Telecom won 131 lots for $263.28 million.

The final successful bidder was UK operator Dense Air Australia, which has revealed plans to use the spectrum to offer carrier neutral 5G densification services, capable of supporting multiple operators on the same physical 5G small cell, in the six largest Australian cities.

Dense Air plans to provide densification extensions to both enterprise and residential consumers, providing a fully managed service to both mobile and fixed network operators by the targeted mass deployment of small cells.

The auction covered 14 regions, with only the joint venture securing spectrum across all 14. Telstra had the next broadest coverage, securing lots across all regions but one.

The 5G licenses will commence in March 2020 and will extend until December 2030. Regulator ACMA said arrangements will be in place to enable earlier access to the band if it can be ensured that no interference is caused to existing licensees of the band.

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said the newly acquired spectrum will support the company’s national 5G rollout. He added Telstra is working with the ACMA to enable early access where it is suitable to do so, to ramp-up the company’s roll out plan for 5G in the first half of next year.

“Securing this spectrum dramatically increases the speeds we will be able to offer and puts us in a competitive position in all markets, including Sydney and Melbourne, with site rollout to extend to these cities as soon as access to the new spectrum is available,” said Penn.

Telstra expects to start offering 5G services in mid-band in early 2019, with a full rollout to capital cities, regional centers and high-demand areas by June 2020. Optus is committed to commercially launching fixed wireless access services early in 2019 and plan to extend these services to regional Australia with the addition of the new spectrum.

“Combined with existing holdings, Telstra now has 60 MHz of contiguous 5G spectrum in all major capital cities and between 50-80 MHz of contiguous 5G spectrum in all regional areas,” Penn added.

The company has already switched on 130 5G-enabled sites across Australia and plan to have a total of 200 sites by the end of 2018.

Last week, Telstra completed what it said was the world's first connection of a 5G mid-band device anywhere in the world with a demonstration of the upcoming HTC 5G Hub mobile smart device, as part of its efforts moving towards 5G commercialization.

“Our aim, just as we were with 3G and 4G, is to be Australia’s leading 5G provider, through the culmination of an $8 billion investment over the five years to 30 June 2019 to enhance the capacity, capability and reach of Telstra’s mobile network.”

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