Has iBurst's spectrum been sold?

Telecommunications industry speculation is mounting that the wireless spectrum owned by Personal Broadband Australia/iBurst has been sold out of the wreckage of failed ICT services company Commander.

Telecommunications industry speculation is mounting that the wireless spectrum owned by Personal Broadband Australia/iBurst has been sold out of the wreckage of failed ICT services company Commander.

(Credit: iBurst)

If true, the sale could help to explain the decision revealed in mid-October to shut the iBurst wireless broadband network down, despite the existence of potential bidders for the entire asset, such as local wireless telco BigAir.

A spokesperson for Commander receivers McGrathNicol told ZDNet.com.au today that a portion of the iBurst business had been sold off, but was unwilling to say which part, and who had bought it.

The spokesperson said that the company had definitely been broken into pieces for sale and that equipment and sites for the company were still up for grabs. That left only parts of the company such as its spectrum allocation.

Industry sources have claimed that one bidder for the spectrum had been the nation's largest telco, Telstra. However a spokesperson for the telco declined to comment on the issue.

Warren Chaisatien, research director of analyst firm Telsyte, said that if Telstra had bought the spectrum, it wouldn't have been to use it. "It would be switching off the competitor because the spectrum band is effective for wireless broadband and not for 3G," he said.

Telstra had made it obvious at its recent investor day that it was putting its weight behind mobile broadband and not rival technologies such as iBurst, he added.

BigAir CEO Jason Ashton said he didn't know which parties had beaten his company to the assets: "We haven't been advised formally of anything." He added that BigAir wouldn't be interested in bidding for the sites and equipment assets, which he called "totally unusable without the spectrum licence".

However, Ashton said, some international companies might be interested.

The spokesperson for McGrathNicol said that some of the locations were quite attractive, and that the network equipment had also elicited interest.

Commander went into voluntary administration in August this year. Other Commander businesses which have been bought include the telco arm by a group of investors called CTG and the managed services arm by CSG. Plant Communications bought the LSP business, which was a Samsung equipment distributor.