Australian operators pay A$648M for mmWave spectrum

Australian operators have paid A$647.6 million (US$501.2 million) for a total of 2.4GHz in mmWave frequencies in the latest 5G auction.

Telstra was the biggest buyer, spending A$276.6 million ($213.8 million) to acquire the maximum of 1000MHz, covering major cities and key regional areas.

Regulator ACMA said 358 of the 360 lots of 26GHz spectrum had been sold. The new licensees will have rights to the spectrum for 15 years, starting from later in 2021.


Hammer down: Telstra led the pack in the latest 5G aution for a total of 2.4GHz in mmWave frequencies. (Source: Bill Oxford on Unsplash)

Optus was the second biggest spender, tipping in A$226.2 million ($174 million) for 800MHz spectrum in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities, along with another 600MHz in Hobart and Margaret River in Western Australia.

It said it had secured "the most highly valued position at the top of the spectrum band" and foreshadowed new services such as AR/VR video, next-generation cloud gaming and massive simultaneous usage, as well as enterprise use cases such as automation and private networking.

Pushing growth

In a blog post, Telstra CEO Andy Penn expressed similar expectations.

He said the new spectrum capacity was more than ten-times Telstra's existing 5G spectrum holdings and would be deployed to increase capacity in high-traffic locations such as shopping centers, inner-city train stations and sporting stadiums.

He said data usage on Telstra's mobile networks was increasing by an average of 40% annually.

Telstra is leading the pack in 5G rollout with its 3.6GHz spectrum network expected to reach 75% of the population by the end of June.

Bring up the rear

TPG Telecom, the number three operator, paid A$108,186,700 ($83.6 million) for 400MHz in Sydney and Melbourne and 600MHz in other major cities.

For just A$8 million ($6.2 million), Perth-based ISP Pentanet obtained 200MHz that covers the city and surrounding areas to aid its fixed wireless rollout which use Facebook's Terragraph technology.

Managing director Stephen Cornish said the operator could accelerate network deployment "at a far more rapid scale."

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The small ISP, which IPOed in February, plans to build its own network for high-speed residential broadband and gaming to avoid paying the high cost of leasing NBN capacity.

Another small company to win spectrum was Dense Air, a UK-owned specialist in mobile network densification, which bought 200MHz coverage in Sydney and Melbourne for A$29 million ($22.4 million).

NBN Co did not participate in this auction.

In December, it was one of 15 companies allocated 26GHz and 28GHz spectrum in the first round of apparatus licensing.

Further apparatus licenses in the 26GHz band will be issued next month.