The unsold lots comprise spectrum left over from the 2013 digital dividend auction and are highly valued by telcos and other companies in the telecommunications sector for providing high-speed mobile voice and data coverage to both regional and metropolitan areas.
But Australia’s dominant telco Telstra will be absent after being barred by the federal government late last year from participating in the interests of ensuring competition in the telecoms sector.
The government acted on the advice of the competition watchdog, the ACCC, which had said that mobile users would be better served if the remaining spectrum was bought by Optus, Vodafone or TPG.
Vodafone is expected to be a strong bidder this time around, after the federal government last year knocked back the telco’s direct offer of $594 million for 2 x 10 MHz of spectrum, in the wake of its decision not to bid in the 2013 auction.
At the time Telstra labelled the offer price, outside of the auction process, as being below market rate.
The 2013 auction saw Optus Mobile and Telstra pay nearly $2 billion to secure spectrum in the 700 MHz band.
The ACMA officially opened this latest auction on Tuesday with the 10 MHz lot and the 5 MHz lot of the 700 Mhz spectrum on offer – at starting prices of $571,814,000 (10MHz lot) and $285,907,000 for the 5 MHz lot.
The auction will commence with rounds for bidding on the 10 MHz lot and, according to the ACMA, once a winning bidder has been identified for the 10 MHz lot — or there are no bids on the 10 MHz lot in the first round — the auction will move to bidding rounds on the 5 MHz lot.
And, once a winning bidder has been identified for the 5 MHz lot (or there are no bids on the 5 MHz lot in the first round) the auction will conclude.