Australian 3G auction closes at $1.17b

Australia's 3G mobile spectrum auction closed yesterday with $A1.17 billion in bids - well below the $2.6 billion the government originally estimated it would gain from the auction.

          Australia's 3G (third-generation) mobile spectrum auction closed yesterday with the six bidders agreeing to pay a total of $A1.17 billion for 48 of the 58 lots on offer, the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) said in a statement. The figure falls well below the $2.6 billion the government originally estimated it would gain from the auction.

          Optus Mobile and Vodafone Pacific bought the two national licenses on offer. Former monopoly carrier Telstra achieved nationwide coverage by buying a combination of licenses for state capital cities and for rural areas.

          Qualcomm-linked 3G Investments. bought a capital cities license giving it coverage of the country's five biggest cities -- Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth -- plus the national capital Canberra, Darwin and Hobart. CKW Wireless bought limited spectrum in each of these markets.

          Hutchison Telecommunications Australia bought lots covering the five biggest cities.

          It appears likely that Telecom New Zealand, which pulled its AAPT subsidiary out of the auction at the last moment, has some kind of agreement with one of the successful bidders. It has previously acknowledged its interest in acquiring the Optus network.

          Australia has more than 9 million GSM mobile phone users, about half of the country's population. Telstra is the market leader with a share estimated at 48%, followed by Optus with 33% and Vodafone with 19%.

          The next big 3G spectrum auction in Asia will take place next month in Singapore. Four licenses are on offer in a market of around 4 million residents, with a mobile phone penetration rate of 63.1 percent, according to government figures. The reserve price has been set at S$100 million per license.

          Further information on the Australian auction is available at a special Web site set up by ACA at http://auction.aca.gov.au/auction.htm.

          ACA, in Melbourne, can be contacted via the Internet at http://www.aca.gov.au/.

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More about 3G InvestmentsAAPTAAPTACAAustralian Communications AuthorityCKW WirelessHutchisonHutchison Telecommunications (Aust)OptusQualcommTelecom New ZealandTelstra CorporationVodafoneVodafone Pacific

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