TPG to spend A$600 million rolling out a mobile network to 80% of the population.

Australia on Wednesday auctioned off unsold 700-MHz digital dividend spectrum, raising A$1.55 billion (€1.09 billion), comfortably exceeding the A$850 million reserve price.

The spectrum was divided into two lots: one lot of 2×10 MHz in the 738 MHz-748 MHz range paired with 793 MHz-803 MHz, and one lot of 2×5 MHz in the 733 MHz-738 MHz range paired with 788 MHz-793 MHz.

TPG Telecom won the 2×10 MHz lot with a bid of A$1.26 billion, while Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) won the 2×5 MHz lot, bidding A$285.91 billion. Licences will be valid from 1 April 2018 and expire on 31 December 2029.

Following the auction, TPG revealed plans to spend A$600 million over three years from the start of 2018 rolling out a mobile network to 80% of the population.

"This additional spectrum will help industry meet ever-increasing demand for high-speed wireless broadband," said Richard Bean, acting chairman of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The government directed by the ACMA to restrict the amount of 700-MHz spectrum that any single operator can own to 2×20 MHz. That meant that incumbent Telstra, which picked up 2×20 MHz at the first 700-MHz auction – held in 2013 – ineligible this time round.

Optus, with its 2×10 MHz of 700-MHz spectrum, was eligible to participate, but all eyes were on VHA, which opted not to participate in the 2013 auction, and TPG, which picked up 1800-MHz frequencies at an auction last year.

"The sale of the remaining unallocated portion of the 700-MHz ‘digital dividend’ spectrum brings an important chapter in Australian economic reform to a successful close," said Bean. "It completes the digital dividend process begun in the 1990s, with the progressive conversion of free-to-air television from analogue to digital technology enabling much better TV and a massive boost to high-speed wireless broadband in Australia."