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Auction summary - 1800 MHz Regional (2016)

Quick summary

The 1800 MHz spectrum includes the frequency ranges between 1710–1785 MHz and 1805–1880 MHz. This spectrum is used extensively in Australia’s major cities, mainly to provide 4G telecommunications.

The auction of 147 lots in the 1800 MHz band spectrum ran over 29 working days from 30 November 2015 to 4 February 2016. The lots included 144 new licences for previously unallocated 1800 MHz spectrum in regional areas and three residual licences.  Allocation of these lots is expected to improve the availability and performance of 4G telecommunications services across regional Australia.

Auction date 30 November 2015–4 February 2016
Amount raised

$543.5 million

Licence expiry 17 June 2028

Results

Total revenue of approximately $543.5 million for the 141 of 147 lots offered came from four successful bidders: Optus Mobile, Telstra, TPG Internet and Vodafone.

Six lots remained unsold at this auction and were auctioned in 2017.

Spectrum details

Band details

Regional 1800 MHz band spectrum
Regional 1800 MHz spectrum lots were offered in 12 separate geographic areas, 12 separate 10 MHz lots were available in a paired configuration, each lot with 5 MHz in the lower part of the band (1725–1785 MHz) and 5 MHz in the upper part of the band (1820–1880 MHz).

Residual 1800 MHz spectrum (residual lots)
Three residual 1800 MHz spectrum lots were offered as follows:

  • one 5 MHz lot in North Queensland (Cairns/Townsville), in a paired configuration, with 2.5 MHz in each of the lower and upper parts of the band (1710–1712.5 MHz and 1805–1807.5 MHz)
    one 5 MHz lot in regional South Australia in a paired configuration, with 2.5 MHz in each of the lower and upper parts of the band (1710–1712.5 MHz and 1805–1807.5 MHz), and
    one 10 MHz lot in Adelaide in a paired configuration, with 5 MHz in each of the lower and upper parts of the band (1770–1775 MHz and 1865–1870 MHz).

Licence type Spectrum licences
Previous use

The regional 1800 MHz band was predominantly used for apparatus licensed fixed point-to-point links.

The three residual lots were not re-issued as part of the expiring spectrum licence process for the 1800 MHz band that was completed in May 2015.

Licence period

1800 MHz spectrum licences for regional Australia commence on 30 May 2017 and expire on 17 June 2028. The expiry date aligns with the 1800 MHz licences that were re-issued as part of the expiring spectrum licence process that was completed in may 2015

Allocation details

Type of allocation

Price-based allocation of spectrum licences under s62 of the Radiocommunications Act 1992

Method of sale The 1800 MHz spectrum auction was conducted online using the simultaneous multi-round ascending (SMRA) format, in accordance with the procedures set out in the allocation determination.  In an SMRA auction, all bidders are able to bid on all of their preferred lots at the same time. That is, all of the lots on offer are on offer simultaneously in each round.
Competition limits

Allocation limits for bidders were imposed in the Radiocommunications (Spectrum Licence Limits—Regional 1800 MHz Band) Direction 2015

In the regional 1800 MHz band, Category 1, a maximum of five lots was set, that is 25 MHz paired (50 MHz in total). Each frequency lot consisted of 10 MHz of spectrum (2 x 5 MHz), comprising a block of five MHz in the lower part of the band (1710–1712.5 MHz) and five MHz in the upper part of the band (1805–1807.5 MHz).

There were no allocation limits on residual lots in Categories 2 and 3. 

Allocation information
Technical information
Related information

 

Background

In recent years, there has been increasing demand for access to the regional 1800 MHz band from various industry sectors for the deployment of mobile telecommunications services using Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, including 4G. The availability of LTE and Global System for Mobile Communications—Railway (GSM-R) equipment also offers opportunities for other industries that traditionally have not relied heavily on these technologies to deliver services. The kinds of services that would be able to use the 1800 MHz band include:

  • mobile phone and broadband services
    smart networks, such as smart energy grids
    automated systems, including transport and other infrastructure.

Previous existing regulatory arrangements in the 1800 MHz band did not meet this demand adequately. Since 2011, an embargo had applied to the 1800 MHz band stating that no further apparatus licences would be issued in the frequency.

In 2012, the ACMA commenced consultation with stakeholders to identify appropriate future licensing arrangements in the regional 1800 MHz band that would balance the needs of both existing and prospective licensees.

In December 2012, the ACMA commenced a review of arrangements in the band to identify options that would facilitate further deployment of mobile services.

The review included consultation with all stakeholders to identify appropriate regulatory approaches that would balance the needs of existing and prospective licensees in the band. The ACMA considered spectrum licensing was the most efficient licensing arrangement that would accommodate emerging high-value uses of the band such as mobile services. Spectrum licences give licensees certainty of tenure and the flexibility to deploy different technologies under the same licence. At that time, the 1800 MHz band was already spectrum-licensed in all major metropolitan areas. Part of the wider 1800 MHz band (1710 MHz–1725 MHz and 1805 MHz–1820 MHz) were also spectrum-licensed in regional Australia. The ACMA considered that extending spectrum licensing to the rest of the band would not only facilitate more efficient use of spectrum through contiguous holdings, but also help to facilitate trading of licences in the band.

In February 2015, the ACMA released for public comment the draft of a recommendation to the Minister about reallocating spectrum in the regional 1800 MHz band by issuing spectrum licences. Following consideration of all stakeholder submissions, which included a Spectrum tune-up engagement session on 3 March 2015, the ACMA made recommendations to the Minister about the regional 1800 MHz band under section 153F of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act).

Following the declaration, the ACMA began preparations for an auction in November 2015 to allocate:

  • spectrum in the frequency range 1725 MHz–1785 MHz and 1820 MHz–1880 MHz in regional Australia (‘the regional 1800 MHz band’); and 
  • spectrum that remained unallocated from the expiring spectrum licence re-issue process for the 1800 MHz band that was completed in late 2013 (from licenses that were bought in 2000 and 1998) (‘residual lots’)

In preparation for the 1800 MHz band auction, the ACMA was required to make a number of legislative instruments. These instruments included an allocation determination (made under sections 60 and 294 of the Act), a marketing plan (made under section 39 and section 39A of the Act) and an omnibus variation instrument to update the technical instruments which underpin spectrum licences in the band (made under section 145 and section 262 of the Act).

Spectrum Marketing Plan figure 1

Source: Radiocommunications Spectrum Marketing Plan (1800 MHz Band) 2015, Figure 1

The Applicant Information Package was released in September 2015. It included the information outlined in section 4.5 of the allocation determination, such as the auction guide, legislative instruments, forms, details about fees and payments, key dates and information on how to lodge auction documents.

Bidding for the auction commenced on 30 November 2015 and ended on 4 February 2016. The ACMA announced the results on 5 February 2016.

Six lots remained unsold after the auction. They will be made available at auction, on a date yet to be announced, using the simultaneous clock allocation method. The six lots to be allocated are:

  • 2 x 5 MHz in South Queensland - 1745–1750 MHz/1840–1845 MHz
    2 x 5 MHz in Tasmania - 1750–1755 MHz/1845–1850 MHz
    2 x 5 MHz in Western NSW - 1775–1780 MHz/1870–1875 MHz
    2 x 5 MHz in Central Qld - 1775–1780 MHz/1870–1875 MHz
    2 x 5 MHz in Central Qld - 1780–1785 MHz/1875–1880 MHz
    2 x 5 MHz in Western Australia - 1780–1785 MHz/1875–1880 MHz

Remote areas

The ACMA has released the 1800 MHz band to support the deployment of mobile services (LTE) in remote areas, using administratively allocated priority assignments. Under this approach, applicants can only apply for licences in the specific channels assigned to them.

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