Australia announces 3.4 GHz auction for 5G, with no caps

The latest regulator to announce plans for a spectrum auction geared to 5G is Australia’s ACMA, which aims to hold a sale in multiple bands late this year. This will include 1.8 GHz spectrum, which will be subject to caps, but the 5G-oriented midband airwaves in 3.4 GHz will have no caps.

Australia, like other countries such as China, expect the spectrum between 3.4 GHz and 3.8 GHz (or up to 4.2 GHz in some cases) to be prime candidates for 5G deployments, supporting high capacity to complement sub-1 GHz coverage bands, but without the technical challenges of millimeter wave bands.

Acting on the advice of the Competition and Consumer Commission, the government has decided not to cap 3.4 GHz holdings, said communications minister Mitch Fifield. “Due to the limited amounts of 3.4 GHz spectrum available in the omnibus spectrum auction, we do not consider allocation limits will sufficiently promote competition to warrant their imposition, and may hinder the economically efficient investment, and economically efficient use of, spectrum,” an ACCC document said.

As well as 3.4 GHz, the auction will include spectrum in 1.8 GHz, 2 GHz and 2.3 GHz which were left over from previous sales. Allocation limits in 2 GHz and 2.3 GHz have been removed “to allow all telecommunications providers to bid for residual spectrum from previous auctions”.

Allocation limits would not promote competition, encourage economically efficient use of spectrum, nor facilitate a new market entrant, the ACCC said, saying in its filings: “A potential carrier could not build a competitive mobile network using only the spectrum available in the omnibus spectrum auction”.

The next 5G-focused auction in Australia is likely to be for 125 MHz in the 3.6 GHz band, but no date has yet been set for that.