Australian 5G spectrum auction set for late November

It will cost Australia's carriers AU$10,000 to take part in the 5G spectrum auction in late November, with 125MHz of spectrum in the 3.6GHz band to be sold off by the government.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has finalised the arrangements for the 5G spectrum auction, saying it will be held in late November.

The ACMA will auction off 125MHz of spectrum in the 3.6GHz band, with 350 lots across 14 regions of Australia.

The non-refundable application fee to take part in the auction has been set at AU$10,000, with the metro spectrum reserve price to be AU$0.08 per MHz per population excluding Perth lower lots and AU$0.053/MHz/pop for Perth lower lots.

The regional spectrum will start at AU$0.03/MHz/pop, with all lots to be auctioned off in an enhanced simultaneous multi-round ascending format using software developed by Power Auctions.

"As a key enabler of the digital economy, the 3.6GHz spectrum will ensure Australia is well placed to realise the benefits of 5G. Timely release of 5G-compatible spectrum will facilitate the early delivery of next-generation 5G services to the Australian public and industry," ACMA Chair Nerida O'Loughlin said on Monday morning.

"The ACMA has designed an auction process -- including starting prices -- that aims to maximise efficiency, competitive outcomes, and the full utility of this spectrum for 5G."

The Australian government had last month announced the competition limits of its 3.6GHz spectrum auction, directing the ACMA to impose an allocation limit of 60MHz in metro areas and 80MHz in regional areas.

Such limits would impact carriers that already have holdings across the 3400-3700MHz band, the Department of Communications said.

This will "allow for a competitive auction process while preventing any one bidder from acquiring an amount of spectrum which could preclude other telcos from rolling out 5G networks", according to the government.

"The next generation of mobile services, 5G, will deliver significantly faster mobile data speeds and allow for millions of new devices to connect. The 3.6GHz band is recognised internationally as a key band for telcos to roll out new 5G networks," Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said in July.

"These auction limits promote competition in the telecommunications industry while ensuring this scarce spectrum is put to its highest-value use."

The ACMA had in May released detail on how it will auction off the 3.6GHz spectrum later this year to mobile telecommunications providers, which will use the band to launch 5G services.

This followed the ACMA releasing its five-year plan for spectrum allocation in October last year, alongside "a range of mitigation measures" for incumbent users in the 3.6GHz band, including "a commitment to developing arrangements for site-based wireless broadband services in the 5.6GHz" band, support for ongoing access to spectrum, and identifying earth station protection zones on Australia's east coast.

This followed arguments from incumbent wireless ISPs and satellite groups that the spectrum should not be taken away from them and given to mobile telcos. Australia's Bureau of Meteorology has also raised concerns that moving wireless providers to the 5.6GHz band could impact weather satellites across most of the nation.

In March, Fifield then announced that current services in the 3.6GHz band will have up to seven years to vacate in regional areas, and only two years in most capital cities.

The federal government's 5G policy paper was released in October, announcing that the ACMA would bring the 3.6GHz spectrum band for 5G use to auction in 2018, followed by millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum in 2019.

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