Spectrum for PCS (Personal Communication Services) in the 800MHz and 1.8GHz can support a variety of new technologies including, but not limited to, CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access Standard), DCS-1800, and Digital AMPS (Advanced Mobile Phone Service – analogue). The only technology that is limited to operate under these new licences is analogue AMPS. The licences are applicable for a period of 15 years.
At the end of the auction process in mid-1998 seven companies ended up with licences. They included the three incumbent carriers. Telstra had been bidding for spectrum that would allow them to increase the capacity of its GSM mobile network. It also made sure it obtained sufficient spectrum for a possible D-AMPS service. In all Telstra got most of the 800MHz spectrum in capital cities allocated to the existing players. However, it looks like Telstra wants to keep all the options open, depending on further market and regulatory developments. There was also some evidence that Telstra was doing some defensive bidding, especially for 1.8GHz spectrum in rural areas. Vodafone bought 1.8GHz spectrum in the cities which they could use to complement their existing GSM networks.
The PCS operators
Company – City/region
AAPT – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane
Catapult Comms – Cairns
Hutchison – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane
Optus – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth
OzPhone – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, 6 regional areas
Telstra – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, 11 regional areas
Vodafone – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide. Perth, Canberra
It looks like AAPT, Hutchison and OzPhone are interested in creating a fourth digital network in some of the capital cities, possibly opting for the CDMA technology. OzPhone (owned by Qualcomm, the leading manufacturer of CDMA) has also shown interest in spectrum for high-speed Internet services. The three new competitors were already talking to each other soon after the process and it would make sense that they would, for example, set up a roaming agreement between them. The three new entrants all cover supplementary areas, so there is plenty of scope for cooperation. Both Hutchison and AAPT have evinced interest in WLL and AAPT has already been trialing this in Victoria.
It is believed that Catapult Communications Corp (Silicon Valley-USA) is possibly interested in regional markets such as Cairns for its wireless testing equipment and satellite businesses.
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