Optus taking hard line on AU 4G auction

Dylan Bushell-Embling
23 Jan 2013

Australia's Optus has taken to local media insisting that it is ready and willing to expand its mobile network without participating in a 4G auction it has repeatedly slammed as too expensive.

Optus head of consumer Kevin Russell told the Australian Financial Review that Optus may pursue “alternative strategies” to meet anticipated consumer demand, including building more base stations and expanding its tower-sharing arrangements with Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA).

Optus and VHA reached an agreement in May last year to share some 3G and 4G cell sites, and jointly deploy another 500. Russell is suggesting that this deal can be expanded upon.

Russell also reiterated Optus' complaints about the pricing of the auction, calling the reserve price “high by any measure.”

Optus has threatened not to participate in an upcoming auction of 700-MHz “digital dividend” spectrum, after baulking over the total reserve price of nearly A$3 billion ($3.17 billion).

The company, a subsidiary of Singapore's SingTel, alleges that the A$1.36 per MHz per population reserve price is nearly A$1 higher than international benchmarks for the frequency band.

Russell's comments came ahead of tomorrow's deadline for interested parties to register with telecom regulator ACMA. Russell said the company plans to register by the deadline, but may subsequently pull out.

Cash-strapped Vodafone Hutchison Australia has already indicated it will not be bidding. If Optus goes too, incumbent Telstra would be the only mobile network operator left to participate.

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