Telecom has pulled its AAPT subsidiary out of the Australian 3G spectrum auction on the eve of its launch.
AAPT was one of seven contenders in the auction, which begins today. But last night the company issued a statement saying AAPT had withdrawn its registration.
The statement said Telecom would "continue to assess strategic opportunities for an expanded presence in the Australian mobile market and its decision in respect of the auction is not inconsistent with this.
"As indicated previously, Telecom is talking about opportunities with various parties. The company will not identify those parties or comment on the substance of discussions at this stage."
Telecom's interest in acquiring the Optus Mobile network has been no secret, but some observers suspect such a purchase would be beyond Telecom's resources, especially without the help of a larger player, such as Japan's NTT DoCoMo.
Optus is among the players who will go into the auction today, along with CKW Wireless, Hutchison Telecommunications Australia, Telstra 3G Spectrum Holdings., Vodafone and 3G Investments.
The original seven bidders have already paid the Australian Communications Authority $A830 million in "elegibility payments" and it is not clear whether AAPT will get all its cash back. Optus, Telstra, Vodafone, and 3G Investments took out the maximum eligibility allowed under the competition limits for the auction.
Competition limits already set for the auction mean that a bidder can acquire no more than 25 %of the available spectrum in state and territory capital cities, and no more than 50% of the available spectrum in regional areas.