Australia opens applications for mmWave spectrum auction

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has opened applications to participate in the April 2021 auction of high-band 5G spectrum.

The regulator will auction 2.4 GHz of spectrum in the 26 GHz band in 27 geographic regions across Australia.

In a statement, ACMA member James Cameron said the mmWave spectrum will enable a wide range of new services which will benefit Australian businesses and consumers. “It is important for smart farming, robotics, telemedicine and other emerging technologies,” he said.

A total of 360 lots of spectrum are available. Allocation limits mean that during the auction, individual participants cannot acquire more than 1 gigahertz of the 26 GHz band in each geographic region. 

“We’re encouraging interested stakeholders to apply so they can participate in the auction next year,” Cameron said.

The ACMA has prepared an applicant information package for interested parties, which provides a detailed auction guide, information on the spectrum available and starting prices.

The application period runs from December 14, 2020 to January 21, 2021. The spectrum auction is scheduled to commence in April 2021.

In the second half of 2021, the Australian government will allocate low-band 5G spectrum (in the 850/900 MHz band), which will be key for broader geographic coverage of 5G services.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher previously said the low- and high-band 5G spectrum will complement the mid-band 5G spectrum that the government has already auctioned.

In October, Australian carrier Telstra said it has already deployed over 2,000 5G base stations in the country, providing 5G coverage to 41% of Australia’s population.

The telco said that it aims to cover 75% of the country’s population with its 5G service by June 2021.

Telstra, which had launched 5G in May last year, is currently using its spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band to provide 5G technology across Australia. Some of the cities in which Telstra offers its 5G service are Canberra, Central Coast, Brisbane, Sidney, Cairns, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Hamilton, Melbourne and Perth.

Rival operator Optus had launched commercial mobile 5G operations in 2019. Optus’ 5G network had 900 live sites and was available to more than 426,000 households across Australia as of the end of August.

In July, Optus announced it was testing 5G mmWave technology in partnership with Ericsson.

In August, TPG Telecom announced plans to accelerate its 5G rollout over the next 12 months, with over 85% of the population in the country’s six largest cities expected to be served by the end of next year.

The company, which was formed through the merger of TPG and Vodafone Hutchison Australia earlier this year, said in its full-year results that more than 1,200 sites 5G sites had now entered the planning phase.

TPG Telecom said the six cities where 5G will be initially available are Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra.

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