The National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) is paying twice the price for spectrum that the government rejected when it cancelled the OPEL network, according to the Opposition.
NBN Co announced this morning that it had secured Austar's 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum in a deal worth $120 million. The company said it plans to use the spectrum for high-speed wireless services in regional and remote areas of Australia that will not be covered by fibre to the home.
However, time has inflated the price of the spectrum, according to Shadow Regional Communications Minister Luke Hartsuyker.
"The OPEL consortium paid $65 million to Austar but handed it back when the newly elected Rudd government reneged on the contract in early 2008. The improved wireless service would be operational now if Senator Conroy had not blindly ignored the merits of OPEL," he said.
Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull echoed Hartsuyker's statements saying that had the government not cancelled the OPEL contracts in 2008, this wireless network would be up and running delivering 12 megabits per second (Mbps) speeds to rural Australians.
"Instead, 37 months have passed during which Labor has announced a series of ever-more grandiose plans for a National Broadband Network, with the cost to the taxpayer blowing out from $4.7 billion to more than $50 billion," Turnbull said in a statement.
Turnbull argued that the purchase indicated that NBN Co was entering the already competitive wireless market.
"But even though there is significant existing infrastructure and competition in the wireless market, [Communications Minister Stephen] Conroy has instead decided to incorporate it into his monolithic government-owned monopoly," he added. "Senator Conroy's arrogance will result in a less efficient market, huge costs to the taxpayer and ultimately, higher prices to consumers."
Hartsuyker went further in his questioning of the spectrum deal.
"NBN Co is paying $120 million for spectrum which Austar currently has on its books as having zero value," he said.
Conroy today addressed the Setting the Agenda for Regional Futures Summit at the University of New England in Armidale where he highlighted an 87 per cent opt-in rate for the NBN in the area and praised the impending roll-out of fixed wireless and satellite services as part of the NBN.
"These new technologies are an exciting development for people and businesses in rural and regional Australia, delivering peak speeds of at least 12 megabits per second," he said. "For users of both the fixed wireless and satellite systems, this will mark a dramatic improvement in broadband services."