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Australia - Mobile Communications - Spectrum Auctions

Attention: There is an updated edition available for this report.

Radio spectrum for mobile phone services in Australia was first auctioned in 1997. Subsequently, spectrum was divided and traded between players to support new mobile services, most notably high speed mobile data services using HSPA or 3G frequencies. More recently, the focus has shifted to spectrum for services based on WiMAX and LTE technologies. Following a dormant period between 2007 and 2011, a number of significant auctions have been held, particularly in the 2GHz band for regional and rural areas, as well as in the 2.3GHz band in mid-2011.

Discussion about the ‘Digital Dividend’ started to direct policy decisions which will see spectrum currently used for analogue broadcasting being made available for mobile (broadband) services. This spectrum re-usage has resulted in further auctions. The 700MHz and 2.5GHzbands were auctioned in April 2013 using a CCA (Combinatorial Clock Auction). This auction had been deferred from November 2012 by the government. The additional spectrum is useable from 2015.

There were also bandwidth limits imposed on the digital dividend spectrum to stop monopolisation (for more information see chapter 2.2.2). A review of existing licenses issued in the 1990s is also under way before their renewal later in 2013.

In this report we review the major spectrum auctions in Australia in recent years. Coverage includes auctions across the late 1990s early to mid-2000s with prices dropping for the 2006 allotments through to the latest auctions in 2011 and 2013, as well as proposed auction conditions for the remaining 700MHz allocations.

Companies mentioned

Optus, AAPT, Vodafone, Telstra, Hutchinson, AUSTAR, Walker Wireless, ActewAGL, NBN Co.

Hot topics and technologies mentioned

3G HSPA, UMTS 850, Personal Communication System, Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA), DCS-1800, DAMPS, Fixed Radio Access (FRA), Long-term evolution (LTE), Local Multipoint Distribution Systems (LMDS), Digital Dividend, spectrum reallocation, spectrum auctions.

1. Synopsis
2. Mobile spectrum auctions
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Digital dividend auction – 2013
2.2.1 700MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum
2.2.2 Competition limits
2.2.3 Price of spectrum
2.2.4 Combinatorial Clock Auction (CCA) of 700MHz and 2.5GHz band
2.2.5 CCA auction in 2013 with spectrum to use in 2015
2.2.6 Auction Results
2.3 500MHz frequency
2.4 800MHz and 1.8GHz frequencies
2.4.1 15-year spectrum licences up for renewal in 2013
2.4.2 Auction of 1998
2.4.3 Additional auction – September 1998
2.4.4 Additional 800MHz auction – May 1999
2.4.5 Final 800MHz auction – 2001
2.4.6 The 1.8GHz auction of 2000
2.5 1880-1920MHz (1.9GHz) frequency
2.5.1 1900-1920MHz band auctions – 2007
2.6 2010-2025MHz frequencies
2.7 2.3GHz band
2.8 Unused 2GHz spectrum
2.9 3.4GHz frequencies
2.9.1 The trials of 1996
2.9.2 Auction announcement
2.9.3 More for sale in 2002, 2004 and 2005
2.9.4 ACMA reduces spectrum prices
2.10 3G Auctions
2.10.1 Overview
2.10.2 Auction process – 2001
2.10.3 Auction price
2.10.4 Auction results – 2001
3. Spectrum overview (separate report)
4. Related reports
Table 1 – The 500MHz spectrum licences – 1997
Table 2 – Spectrum charges for spectrum bandwidth licenses expiring in 2013
Exhibit 1 – An overview of the digital dividend auction timeline – 2010 - 2015
Exhibit 2 – 700MHz and 2.5GHz auction results – 2013
Exhibit 3 – Companies initially showing interest in the 800/1800MHz auctions
Exhibit 4 – Catapult
Exhibit 5 – Auction results
Exhibit 6 – Final 1.8GHz spectrum auction results
Exhibit 7 – The 1900-1920MHzGHz spectrum auction results
Exhibit 8 – The 2.3GHz spectrum auction results – 2011
Exhibit 9 – 3.4GHz initial bidders – August 2000
Exhibit 10 – Final 3.4GHz – October 2000
Exhibit 11 – 3G auction results per bidder – 2001

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