Seven companies have applied to bid in Australia’s third-generation mobile (3G) spectrum auction, the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) announced Monday.

The government has structured the auction so that there will be at least four competitors in each major urban market and two in rural areas. Two licenses will be awarded for national 3G coverage, others for specific urban and rural areas.

The seven bidders include all of the largest players in Australia’s cellular phone market. They each put up an entry fee of A$50,000 (US$26,844) and will have to make a further “eligibility payment” later this week calculated on the basis of the amount of spectrum they hope to acquire, the ACA said in a statement.

The bidders are:

– AAPT Spectrum (ACT) Pty. Ltd.

– CKW Wireless Pty. Ltd.

– Hutchison Telecommunications Australia Ltd.

– Optus Mobile Pty. Ltd.

– Telstra 3G Spectrum Holdings Pty. Ltd.

– Vodafone Pacific Pty. Ltd.

– 3G Investments (Australia) Pty. Ltd.

The auction of radiofrequency spectrum licenses in the 2GHz band is expected to begin in mid-March following the completion of the registration process, the ACA said. Successful bidders will be allocated licenses for a 15-year term starting October 2002.

The auction is to be conducted over a number of rounds using the simultaneous ascending auction method, through electronic bidding. The results of each round will be made available to all bidders and to the public via the Internet, according to the ACA.

The government has previously said it expects to raise about A$2 billion from the auction, but vendors have warned they will not pay the huge prices earlier seen in European 3G auctions. Optus has already stated that it has calculated a price above which it will not be prepared to pay, and will walk away from the auction if that price is exceeded.

ACA, in Melbourne, can be contacted at

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