The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has announced that it is now accepting applications from telecommunications carriers that wish to take part in the 1800MHz spectrum auction in November.
The spectrum band, being auctioned off online, will improve 4G coverage in regional and remote Australia, bringing high-speed broadband to those living outside of the major cities.
It has been separated into 147 lots, with costs calculated at AU$0.08 per MHz depending on population; spectrum in the 1800MHz band in Darwin starts at AU$106,000, while its starting price in Adelaide is AU$1.13 million.
Spectrum is also being auctioned off in regional South Australia (at a reserve price of AU$137,000); North Queensland (AU$199,000); regional Western Australia (AU$237,000); Dubbo, NSW (AU$266,000); Mackay, Queensland (AU$305,000); Grafton, NSW (AU$421,000); Albury, NSW (AU$455,000); Tasmania (AU$438,000); Canberra (AU$565,000); regional Victoria (AU$705,000); and Maryborough, Queensland (AU$917,000).
"Spectrum is a finite natural resource. When demand exceeds supply for spectrum in a band, the ACMA commonly allocates spectrum by auction. This provides a transparent process to establish a market price, ensuring licences are allocated to those who value them most highly," said ACMA chairman Chris Chapman.
"The ACMA considers that the price paid by bidders at an auction should provide a reasonably accurate indication of the true market value of the spectrum and identify the highest value use of the band."
Diversity of ownership and therefore competition is being promoted, with no party permitted to acquire more than 2x 25MHz of the available spectrum, in spite of the recommendation to the contrary made by incumbent telco Telstra. The spectrum will all be bid on simultaneously.
In May this year, the government announced its plan to auction off the regional 1800MHz spectrum, after the ACMA had recommended an auction be held. The 1800MHz band is used in metropolitan areas by Telstra, Vodafone, and Optus to deliver their 4G networks, but has primarily been used in remote Australia for point-to-point backhaul services. The reallocation of the spectrum will ensure that it is used to bring faster connection speeds to those living in regional areas.
The ACMA on Thursday updated its five-year outlook on spectrum usage, releasing two reports on Thursday that outline how the telecommunications sector can deal with the growth in mobile broadband usage and technologies.
It said that it is currently focusing on the usage of the 1800MHz band in bringing services to those living in remote regions.
The ACMA also said that mobile broadband traffic is far outstripping previous predictions, with additional spectrum needing to be allocated, and more flexible and responsive planning necessary for the future.
To deal with the growth in traffic and explosion of new technologies, the ACMA has put forward strategies to re-farm and reallocate broadband spectrum.
"If we are to seriously contemplate the disruption caused by re-farming bands currently used for other purposes -- and we think that is extremely likely -- it is equally vital that existing mobile broadband allocations are optimised to take account of changes in international harmonised arrangements. We all need to sweat existing allocations harder," said Chapman.
Applications on the spectrum auction will be accepted until October 1.