VHA reaches deal with rail authorities for 1800MHz spectrum

21 Sep 2011

Australian mobile network operator Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) has reportedly reached a deal with rail authorities in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia which will see it secure notable contiguous allotments of 1800MHz spectrum. Such frequencies are expected to support the rollout of Long Term Evolution (LTE) services in capital cities until spectrum in the 700MHz band is auctioned off, which is not expected until the second half of 2012.

According to iTnews, licence renewals last week saw VHA aggregate contiguous blocks of 22.5MHz of spectrum in Adelaide, 17.5MHz in Melbourne and 12.5MHz in Sydney following negotiations with the state’s respective rail authorities over a six-month period. The cellco previously held smaller allotments in the three aforementioned cities, in addition to 1800MHz spectrum in Brisbane and Perth. Commenting on the matter, Australian Railway Authority chief executive Brian Nye, who noted that no money had been paid for access to the spectrum, noted: ‘As it was, our spectrum was split across the different zones and we were trying to get a contiguous zone … With Vodafone, it’s helped them and it’s helped us at the same time.’ The negotiations meanwhile have not reportedly effected the expiry dates for the spectrum in question, with 1800MHz spectrum allocations due to expire between 2013 and 2015.

It is understood meanwhile that the Department of Broadband, Communications & Digital Economy (DBCDE) has yet to reach a decision on whether the 1800MHz concessions will be re-auctioned when they expire or whether they would be put up for renewal by the respective carriers. The rail authorities via the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) have however reportedly lobbied the government requesting that they should continue holding the concessions, claiming that they are vital to signalling systems.