It seems like mobile network providers have turned green after government-owned NBN hooked the large bundle of 5G spectrum unused. Top-tier telco player Vodafone has questioned the NBN’s move of neither using the exclusive access to 5G spectrum band nor releasing it to commercial telcos for their 5G network requirement.
Last year, Vodafone Hutchison merged with its peer TPG Telecom, bringing down the aggressing competition of telco industry. TPG-Vodafone acquired 131 lots of 3.6 GHz spectrum in the 5G spectrum auction held in November 2018. It was the second largest portion carved out from government’s reserves following Telstra who secured 143 lots at $386 million. But now the company rolls over its eyes to NBN’s unused 5G spectrum.
Vodafone believes that NBN should release the portion of the 5G spectrum that it is not using so that commercial telecommunication companies can have access to additional spectrum and provide better network performance at lower costs.
But National Broadcasting Company (NBN) dug its heels in and refuted Vodafone’s suggestions. The state-owned company expressed that it does not want commercial telcos to put their nose in its’ fixed wireless system. NBN stated that it requires these unused spectrums for its fixed wireless broadband, and providing access to commercial telcos would lead to unavoidable interference.
NBN has been granted 25% of the total 5G spectrum ranging from 3.4 GHz to 3.8 GHz frequencies in Australia. These spectrum bands are allocated for its fixed wireless services across peripheral areas located on the edge of cities where building fiber optic cable would not be profitable. But the problem started arising when the government decided to lock-in the same bands for the NBN in metro cities. That means a valuable portion of 5G spectrum, i.e., around 75 MHz, is lying unused with NBN in metropolitan areas of Australia.
If this chunk of the spectrum gets released in the market, the commercial telcos will have the stronger capacities to serve early access of 5G to Australian customer and at more affordable data packages. The battle is just between four telecommunication companies Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, and TPG. However, Vodafone and TPG have now become one and Optus may be restricted to participate in further bids as it already owns a significant amount of total available spectrum.
As of now, the NBN believes that allowing access of its spectrum assets to other commercial operators would create a risk of interference to its fixed wireless subscribers. But the government is reportedly looking for possible alternatives to mitigate the risk of interference so that the unused 5G spectrum can be utilized to support the 5G market in Australia.
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