update The National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) is in discussions with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to secure extra spectrum for its fixed wireless internet, NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley has revealed today.
NBN Co recently acquired 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum from pay TV company Austar in a deal worth $120 million. NBN Co intends to use this spectrum for fixed wireless internet for 4 per cent of the population not covered in the 93 per cent fibre footprint, with the other 3 per cent to receive satellite services.
Quigley today told a parliamentary inquiry on the NBN that NBN Co has been in talks with ACMA to acquire additional 2.3GHz spectrum for areas not covered in the Austar spectrum.
"We're going through a process also with the ACMA looking at additional 2.3GHz in places we couldn't get it and we are well advancing negotiations with potential equipment suppliers and also system capability, so we will have obviously have that wireless network rolled out way before the completion of the fibre network."
Quigley told journalists outside the hearing that spectrum in Western Australia is the main focus of the discussions with ACMA.
"There is unallocated spectrum that is still in the ACMA hands, and there is a process we can go through there to see if we can get a hold of that spectrum," he said.
Quigley told the hearing that the fixed-wireless component of the NBN would be rolled out "as fast as possible" beginning in 2012, but would take "a number of years" to complete, in part because of a reliance on the fibre backhaul being installed to NBN points of interconnect, which rest on the finalisation of the $11 billion deal with Telstra.
"The reason I hesitate just slightly is because the points of interconnect for the fixed wireless network are the same points of interconnect as we're using for fibre so there is a dependency on Telstra infrastructure," he said. "Not in this case on ducts but in this case on exchange space in points of interconnect and dark fibre."
The chief executive said he would return to the committee with a projected date on when it was expected to be completed.
ACMA is currently reviewing Australian spectrum requirements as it determines what will be required to meet Australia's future mobile broadband requirements. According to ACMA's latest discussion paper, telcos will need to find an additional 300MHz of spectrum in order to cope with consumer demand by 2020.
Updated at 1:17pm, 26 May 2011: the spectrum being sought was 2.3GHz, not 2.2GHz.