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Australian govt. raises $1.5B in latest bout of Asia 5G auctions

Asia-Pacific governments have released swathes of mid-band and low-band 5G spectrum in the latest spate of auctions.

In the largest of these, Australia's big two telcos paid A$$2.1 billion ($1.5 billion) for 850/900MHz spectrum, regulator ACMA announced Wednesday. All 16 lots were sold, with Optus buying 12 for A$1.48 billion and Telstra the remaining four lots for A$616 million.

Optus said the additional new 2x25 MHz 900 MHz spectrum meant "a significant uplift" in its nationwide 5G coverage. Telstra CFO Vicki Brady said the company now held 2x40MHz of low-band spectrum covering major cities and 2x45MHz in regional and remote areas – more than any other carrier.

The 900MHz band was previously used for 2G, while this is the first time 850MHz band has been used for mobile communications.

It's the second Australian auction this year. In April operators paid A$648 million for 2.4GHz in mmWave spectrum, with Telstra acquiring the maximum of 1000MHz. The latest Australian sale follows on the heels of Singapore and Hong Kong auctions.

Singapore has sold off 2.1GHz frequencies to all three 5G players. Singtel Mobile and the StarHub-M1 consortium acquired 5x5 MHz each and TPG Telecom 2x 5 MHz, the IMDA said. Singtel and StarHub-M1 are required to achieve 50% coverage by end-2022 and full coverage by 2025. TPG Telecom has two years to reach 50% NSA coverage.

In Hong Kong, Ofca has just raised HK$1.88 billion ($240 million) from the sale of spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2.5GHz and 4.9GHz bands.


Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on Light Reading.


China Mobile HK was the biggest spender, outlaying HK$649 million to snare another 90MHz and ensure it has the city's largest spectrum holdings. It now boasts 400MHz in millimeter wave and 220MHz in low- and mid-band frequencies.

Meanwhile, South Korea's neighbors might have been loading up on 5G radio real estate, but the world's earliest and fastest 5G market is struggling with spectrum issues. One is millimeter wave. While telcos have begun trials, the Ministry of Science and ICT has not yet allocated the telco and enterprise spectrum it had promised to issue by year-end.

Operators are also pushing back on the government's approach to selling legacy spectrum. SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus have rejected the price tag of as much as 5.5 trillion won ($4.7 billion) on their 2G, 3G and 4G frequencies and have called for an auction instead.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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