Communications Minister Stephen Conroy late yesterday announced the Government would release 126MHz of broadcasting spectrum as a digital dividend for use by mobile carriers, in a move immediately welcomed by both Telstra and Optus.
The spectrum will be freed up as a result of the switch to digital-only television broadcasting, which the Government is planning to complete in Australia by the end of 2013. The dividend to be released comprises the 694 to 820 MHz frequency range in the UHF band.
Conroy’s statement said the Government aimed to auction the spectrum in the second half of 2012, giving successful bidders “ample time” to plan and deploy the next generation networks that would use the spectrum. Broadcasting services will need to be relocated out of the spectrum and organised efficiently within their remaining spectrum allocation — a process known as ‘restacking’.
“My department, along with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, will work with broadcasters and other stakeholders to plan and implement the restack of television channels,” Conroy said.
Optus and Telstra immediately welcomed the announcement.
“This is a critical decision and a positive step in providing industry with the certainty about the new spectrum that will be available to support strong projected demand for next generation mobile services,” said Henry Calvert, director of Optus Products and Delivery.
“Optus intends to be a key participant in the digital dividend auction process. We now urge the Government to finalise its position on the 2.5 GHz band so that there is a comprehensive spectrum roadmap to allow the mobile industry to plan for future wireless services.”
Telstra chief executive David Thodey echoed Optus’ sentiments.
“Telstra’s Next G Network is recognised globally as a cutting edge innovation and gaining access to the Digital Dividend spectrum is critical to building on this success to the benefit of Australian consumers, businesses and the wider community,” he said.
The decision, he said, kept Australia “in step” with mobile networks being developed in other parts of the world, which will assist with economies of scale, interoperability and roaming.
“It is now imperative that the Government, regulators and the industry continue to work cooperatively and with a sense of urgency to ensure that the economic and social benefits from the use of this vital spectrum begin to be realised as early as possible,” Thodey added.