ACMA opens applications for digital dividend auction

4 Jan 2013

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has announced that it is now accepting submissions from those parties interested in taking part in the country’s upcoming digital dividend auction. With the spectrum sale set to begin on 16 April 2013, prospective bidders have until 24 January 2013 to submit an application, as well as the AUD25,000 (USD26,245) registration fee. Following this, the regulator notes, it expects to circulate a list of auction applicants to other applicants between 25 January and 27 January, during which period any affiliations between bidders must be declared.

As part of the auction process, the ACMA has detailed the frequencies which are to be made available, confirming that spectrum in both the 700MHz band (703MHz-748MHz and 758MHz-803MHz) and 2.5GHz band (2500MHz-2570MHz and 2620MHz-2690MHz) will be offered. In the 700MHz band, the regulator notes that there is ‘one product containing nine generic lots’, with each lot comprising a paired 2×5MHz block of spectrum, of which 5MHz will be in the upper part of the band, and the other in the lower part. Each of the nine available spectrum allocations will allow for nationwide coverage, bar the Mid-west Radio Quiet Zone (RQZ). In the 2.5GHz band, however, the ACMA notes that it will offer ‘eleven products, each containing 14 generic lots’, with each lot offering 2×5MHz, again with 5MHz in each of the upper and lower parts of the band. Unlike the nationwide 700MHz band concessions, the 2.5GHz licences will be available on a region-by-region basis, with the eleven locations listed as: the eight metropolitan areas of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney; the two regional areas of Regional East Australia and Regional Western Australia; and Remote Australia, which covers the remainder of the country, but excludes the Mid-west RQZ.

With regards to pricing, the ACMA has also confirmed that it has been directed by country’s telecoms minister to set the reserve prices for the 700MHz band at AUD1.36 per MHz per head of population calculation (AUD/MHz/pop). By comparison, for the 2.5GHz spectrum licenses, a reserve price of AUD0.03/MHz/pop has been set.

In terms of other notable dates in the sale process, between late February 2013 and early April the ACMA expects to conduct mock auctions and provide bidder tutorials to ensure that prospective bidders are familiar with using the online auction system.

Commenting on the development, ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said: ‘This spectrum will further transform the way Australians communicate and do business … Australia is on the cusp of realising the very significant social and economic benefit from this valuable public asset.’