NBN Co has quietly picked up 850MHz of spectrum from AAPT in the 28GHz spectrum band for its satellite service, but the company has refused to reveal how much it paid.
In its six-monthly report to the government, released yesterday, the company revealed that in November, it had acquired 850MHz of spectrum in the 28GHz band from internet service provider (ISP) AAPT for the provision of the company's long-term satellite service, which will be launched in 2015.
According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) website, NBN Co has picked up just over two years' worth of spectrum licences in the 28GHz band in Adelaide, central-west NSW, Hobart, inner-west Queensland, Launceston, Mount Gambier, northern NSW, south Perth, "remote Australia", Riverland, South Coast NSW, south-west WA and the Spencer Gulf.
NBN Co refused to reveal the cost of this spectrum purchase to ZDNet Australia, due to "commercial sensitivity".
NBN Co has frequently declined to release information about purchases and tendering processes, due to the information being "commercial in confidence". Questions about the halting of the construction tender process last year, and details on how NBN Co prices the extension of the fibre roll-out to areas outside of the planned 93 per cent of the population have been met with denials on the basis of commercial confidentiality.
Even questions from members of parliament have been shot down with a similar commercial confidentiality claim. In the second report of the joint parliamentary committee reviewing the National Broadband Network (NBN) roll-out, committee chair Rob Oakeshott expressed frustration with NBN Co continually using this provision to withhold information from the committee.
"The committee will continue to monitor claims of commercial in confidence, and may seek to press the issue if it believes its mandate from the parliament and the government is being unduly impeded by such claims without satisfactory explanation," Oakeshott said.
Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull agreed.
"While appreciating that some matters are genuinely commercially sensitive, the coalition members of the committee do not see why a commercial contract should receive automatic and blanket protection from parliamentary scrutiny simply because it involves a private-sector counter-party," Turnbull said.
The AAPT buy is not the first spectrum grab for NBN Co. Last year, the company bought spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrums from Austar for $120 million. NBN Co plans to use this spectrum for its fixed-wireless long-term evolution (LTE) network, which is expected to be up and running by 2015 for 4 of the 7 per cent of Australian premises not covered in the fibre roll-out.
The spectrum licences that NBN Co bought from AAPT are set to expire before NBN Co's satellite service has launched in 2015. NBN Co said that as the licence holder, it will now be in a position to discuss renewing these licences with the ACMA.