Vodafone has raised concerns that prime 5G spectrum in Australia is parked with NBN Co and may need to be “withdrawn” to accommodate next-generation mobile services.
The mobile telco said NBN Co’s 3.4-3.7GHz spectrum holdings - which are to be used to bring fixed wireless to 80,000 metropolitan fringe customers – were allocated prior to international agreement on 5G bands.
As a result, “the only internationally-aligned 5G band which is likely to be available in Australia” has been allocated to a non-5G use.
Vodafone said with 3.4-3.7GHz bands out of action, “around half of the most likely 5G spectrum band cannot be used for 5G”.
“[Vodafone] is not suggesting that this spectrum be immediately withdrawn from NBN Co,” it said in a submission to the joint committee on the NBN.
“However, there should be a serious examination of the alternatives and options and the costs and benefits of each.
“For example, other spectrum bands could be fit for use for NBN Co’s fixed wireless network and NBN could be allocated appropriate spectrum bands which are not primary candidates for 5G.”
Another option was to look at bringing those 80,000 premises into the fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) footprint, Vodafone suggested.
While this would come at a cost, it was “likely to be a fraction of the proceeds of the sale of 5G spectrum at auction”, the mobile telco said.
If NBN Co’s 3.4-3.7GHz holdings were to be taken and auctioned, Vodafone suggested a “portion” of the auction’s proceeds could be given to NBN Co to help migrate the 80,000 customers “to an alternative spectrum band or alternative technology”.
“The costs of any such transition are likely to be minimised the earlier the problem is seriously considered,” Vodafone said.
“Establishing a clear process for examining these issues on their merits should be seriously considered.”