Telstra has announced that its 5G network will have “dramatically” larger capacity and speeds nationwide, after the company spent $277 million to acquire 1000MHz in the Federal Government’s 26GHz spectrum auction.
The acquisition of the millimetre wave spectrum was announced to the Australian Stock Exchange Friday morning. Telstra advised that while the results of the auction won’t be fully finalised until later this year, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which oversees radiofrequency spectrum auctions, would give Telstra early access so they can begin using the spectrum a little sooner.
“We launched out first mmWave-compatible device in May 2020 and we are working closely with global device manufacturers to bring more mmWave-capable devices to market this calendar year,” Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said in a release.
Telstra’s acquisition of 1000MHz was the maximum any one carrier could acquire in the auction, following bidding limits applied by the Minister for Communications in October 2019. Minister Fletcher said the limits were designed to prevent the 26GHz spectrum, and the future of 5G in Australia, from being monopolised.
“Success in the mobile market ultimately depends on access to spectrum. Applying allocation limits means that the 26GHz spectrum cannot be monopolised by any one operator,” Fletcher said at the time.
Telstra is pitching their new capacity as being suitable for “high-speed mobile broadband in high density areas, such as built up cities and towns, train stations, sport stadiums and other locations with a high concentration of people” on mobile. The carrier will pay for the spectrum over five years in equal annual instalments, which works out to approximately $55 million a year.
It’s a fairly large chunk of change to spend on spectrum, but it’s not the most amount Telstra has paid thus far. In 2018, the carrier bought 143 lots of 3.6GHz band spectrum for $386 million, paying $120 million more than the TPG-Vodafone joint venture.
A string of 5G capable mobiles are already available in the Australian market, but if you want a phone that supports mmWave 5G, you’d have to import one (like the Samsung Galaxy S21, or iPhone 12) from the United States where mmWave 5G networks are already live. More mmWave 5G phones should be able to take advantage of the newer spectrum later this year, although we might have to wait until 2022 or 2023 for mmWave support to become standardised outside of the flagship Apple/Google/Samsung devices.
Telstra’s full announcement to the ASX can be viewed here.