ANZ Broadband: NBN Co withdraws proposed SAU; More spectrum for Australia; Optus, TPG upgrade towers; Telco Authority gets support; Spark trials; Vodafone NZ offloads towers

The current news on 5G, broadband, and telecommunications services that Australian IT relies on.

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NBN Co under pressure, reviews SAU

Following a letter from Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland, NBN Co withdrew its proposal with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and is planning to submit a revised special access undertaking (SAU) variation as soon as possible.

Rowland said in a statement that the SAU variation lodged in March 2022 under the former government would have allowed NBN price increases of inflation plus 3% a year on some products. “This was underpinned by unrealistic revenue expectations, and reflected a view to privatisation,” Rowland said. She also said the existing proposal was not acceptable.

NBN Co said it plans to “make substantive changes to key aspects of its proposed SAU variation.”

The minister’s letter came after heavy lobbying from the industry, and the increase in prices would be passed on to telco providers, therefore, causing prices to increase all around.

“As modern infrastructure that is owned by everyday Australians, NBN Co should be focusing on committing to future network investment and better reseller incentives, not paying down debt,” Aussie Broadband managing director Phillip Britt said in a statement.

3.4 GHz and 3.7 GHz 5G spectrum to go to auction in 2023

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has declared the reallocation for parts of the 3.4 GHz (3400–3575 MHz) and the 3.7 GHz (3700–3800 MHz) bands. ACMA plans to conduct an auction in 2023 but no specific date has been determined yet.

ACMA is also examining licensing and allocation process for area-wide apparatus licences (AWLs) in the 3.4 to 4.0 GHz frequency range in remote Australia, as well as the technical framework and pricing arrangements and says the allocation for these will not happen until the last quarter of 2022.

Optus, TPG Telecom upgrade mobile towers to 5G in Victoria

Optus and TPG Telecom will deliver five new mobile towers and upgrade five existing ones to 5G through the $550 million Connecting Victoria program, improving connectivity in Derrimut, Hoppers Crossing, Mount Cottrell, Point Cook, Ravenhall, Rockbank, Tarneit, Truganina, Werribee South, and Wyndham Vale.

The telcos will also deliver a new mobile tower and upgrade other 10 existing ones to 5G that will service Bell Park, Bell Post Hill, Belmont, Breakwater, Drumcondra, East Geelong, Geelong, Geelong West, Hamlyn Heights, Herne Hill, Manifold Heights, Marshall, Newtown, Norlane, North Geelong, North Shore, Rippleside, South Geelong, St Albans Park, and Thomson.

The work will be carried out between 2023 and 2026.

NSW Telco Authority gets emergency comms support

Optus has supplied the New South Wales Telco Authority with eight additional ruggedised Kymeta U8 flat panel portable antennas. This is in addition to a managed satellite network that the telco provides to the estate’s telco authority and 45 Kymeta antennas.

The antennas will provide support to communications even when existing infrastructure has been compromised during fires and floods and will be delivered by mid-August 2022.

Vodafone NZ follows Spark in selling cell tower assets to offshore investors

Most of New Zealand’s cell phone tower infrastructure will no longer be owned locally.

Hot on the heals of Spark’s announcement of the sale of 70% stake in its cell phone tower business to offshore investors, Vodafone New Zealand has followed suit.

Vodafone said in a statement it will sell its passive mobile tower assets for $1.7 million to funds managed, or advised, by two global investment firms — InfraRed Capital Partners and Northleaf Capital Partners.

Each firm will own 40% share of the newly formed tower business, called TowerCo (which confusingly is the same name given to Spark’s tower offshoot). Vodafone New Zealand’s shareholder Infratil will hold 20% in the company, which will own 1,484 mobile towers. This will be the largest towers business in New Zealand, covering over 98% of the country’s population, Vodafone claimed.

Spark meanwhile sold its tower business, with approximately 1,263 sites for $900 million to the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board.

Under its agreement, Vodafone New Zealand will enter into a 20-year master services agreement with TowerCo for access to both existing and new towers. TowerCo will also commit to build at least 390 additional sites over the next 10 years.

Vodafone will continue to own the active parts of its network, including the radio access equipment and spectrum assets.

Both Spark’s and Vodafone’s deals are subject to Overseas Investment Office approval.

Spark trials faster rural 5G tech

A store from agricultural provider PGG Wrightson is part of a 5G millimetre wave (mmWave) trial set up by Spark with loaned spectrum from the New Zealand Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE).  

The store in Culverden, North Canterbury, is testing the 5G service beaming from a trial site set up 6km away in Mouse Point to run its rural operations over 5G connectivity. According to PGG Wrightson, connectivity is a challenge for some of its more rural store locations. Access to 5G could allow it to offer high-definition livestreams of auctions from saleyards and farms with minimal delays, the company said

The trial aims to test mmWave for use in future 5G networks. Current 5G networks in New Zealand use frequencies adjacent to 4G.

A pre-trial performed by Spark and Nokia achieved a peak speed of 2.4Gbps at a range of 3km and 1.4Gbps at an extended range of 7km.

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