Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has announced he plans to negotiate with Telstra, Optus, VHA and Vividwireless for renewal of their 15-year wireless spectrum licenses, rather than auction them off in the first instance.
But the Minister today warned renewal was "subject to an agreement on price" and that licenses could still be put up for auction - the default option for license reissue under Australian law - if negotiations failed.
"The Government will seek a fee that reflects the scarcity and value of this important public resource," Conroy said.
"Renewal is not a certainty simply because a carrier services a significant customer base. Licensees will still need to meet public interest criteria.
"An auction process remains a genuine option where I am satisfied that renewal is not in the public interest."
Conroy said his office had undertaken "a detailed valuation of the 15-year spectrum licenses". A spokesman for the minister was contacted for comment.
He said he had taken the path of negotiation rather than auction after a public consultation process last year.
The Government had listened to the industry in deciding to renew spectrum licenses for another 15 years rather than pursuing shorter terms this time around.
"We know that where some long-term licences have come up for renewal overseas, there has been a short term roll-over," Conroy said.
"The Government has listened to industry concerns that this approach does not provide sufficient certainty ... and so we have decided to undertake a process to provide long-term reissue."
The licences were due to expire between 2013 and 2017. They were primarily used for 2G and 3G services.