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Telstra slams government spectrum hoarding

Telstra's chief technology officer Dr Hugh Bradlow has said that the government could better handle how it allocates spectrum, including giving less to the Defence Force.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Mobile data demands will always inevitably outstrip supply, according to Telstra's chief technology officer Dr Hugh Bradlow, so governments must rethink how spectrum is auctioned, and how much the government sets aside for agencies such as the Defence Force.

Building a mobile network is "not for the faint hearted," Bradlow told a Communications Alliance event in Sydney today. Even once the network is built out to thousands of towers with billions of dollars in investment, upgrades need to be made and spectrum needs to be secured, he said.

Governments need to have better foresight in how they manage the spectrum on offer because of the limited availability of viable spectrum for use in telecommunications, Bradlow said.

"They should be looking at the overall economic benefit instead of that short-term windfall," he said.

Telstra picked up the most of the spectrum on offer in the digital dividend auction, which will see the government secure AU$1.96 billion from Telstra, Optus, and TPG. The former government's reserve price came under criticism from the telcos as being much higher compared to other markets, and was seen at the time as being a method for the government to get the budget back into surplus.

Bradlow also took aim at the government for continuing to reserve spectrum for various government agencies.

"Large swathes of spectrum, as you are well aware, are used by organisations that are very hard to go to war with, like the Defence Force, and they don't need those swathes of spectrum," he said.

"It would be much more effective for those organisations to be sharing public infrastructure and be invoking things like Quality of Service, which is possible in those one-to-one situations."

The Defence Force has the largest holdings of spectrum out of all of the government, including in the 1800MHz spectrum band, which has been increasingly refarmed by Australian telcos for their long-term evolution (LTE) networks. It is understood that this spectrum holding is why Optus was unable to launch a 4G network in the 1800MHz spectrum band in Canberra.

Telstra has frequently pushed for government agencies to outsource more of their mobile network requirements to telcos. Most recently during the debate over whether the government should allocate some spectrum in the 700MHz or 800MHz spectrum bands for emergency services networks, Telstra argued that it could offer priority access on its 4G network for emergency services.

Outside of the Defence Force and emergency services, spectrum that is not allocated to either mobile, radio, or television is generally reserved for transport organisations.

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