Telstra has paid $50 million at auction for a block of 3.4GHz spectrum in Brisbane, a clear sign of its build preparations for a 5G network.
The $50 million bid on a single lot accounted for over half of total takings from the so-called multiband spectrum auction run by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
The 3.4-3.7GHz bands are currently considered frontrunners in which to host 5G services and have been subject to industry haranguing during the year.
Telstra indicated in a statement that 5G was on its mind when it bid for the spectrum.
“We’re pleased with the outcome of the auction,” Telstra said.
“The additional spectrum we have secured will mean we can continue to deliver the best experience for our customers and meet the ever growing demand for data.
“Some of this spectrum will also support the early evolution of 5G technology beyond the trials we already have planned for 2018.”
Telstra will begin its 5G network on the Gold Coast, launching the services to coincide with the Commonwealth Games in April.
Its expansion of 5G appears then set to move northward towards Brisbane.
The main capital cities are also home to Telstra’s 5G precursor upgrades, which boosted LTE peak speeds as high as 1Gbps.
One of the other main holders of 3.4GHz to 3.7GHz spectrum is NBN Co, which uses it for the fixed wireless portion of its broadband network.
However, NBN Co last month revealed it is exploring to what extent its agreements with Telstra would preclude it from augmenting portions of the fixed-line network with some form of 5G service - meaning it could also become a 5G player.
Telstra purchased more than just the 3.4GHz lot at the auction: in total, it spent $72.5 million on available spectrum.
By contrast, Vodafone bought $7.2 million, Optus $6.5 million, NBN Co $4 million and TPG $2.3 million of spectral assets.
Optus said it had successfully procured 3.5GHz spectrum that it would also put towards 5G operations.
"[It] will enable Optus to offer 5G services for customers in Sydney and Melbourne," Optus said.
NBN Co’s buys were in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
The auction’s total takings came to $92.6 million.
“There was good competition across the 1800MHz, 2GHz, 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said in a statement.
“The additional spectrum will mean improved services and greater choice for consumers in those areas where lots have been allocated.”
The full list of lots and prices paid can be found here.