Turnbull blasts Labor over unsold spectrum in Digital Dividend

But analysts say $1 billion shortfall not bad considering Vodafone no-show.

Malcolm Turnbull has slammed the Labor government for not raising more money in the Digital Dividend auction.

The Australian government revealed today that it failed to sell one-third of the 700MHz spectrum—worth $1 billion—that was up for sale. In total, the government made $1.96 billion in revenue on the 700MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum in the auction.

“Yet again, Labor has failed against a key fiscal target it set for itself,” the shadow communications minister said in a statement.

“And yet again, the end result will be more public debt.”

Turnbull criticised Communications minister Stephen Conroy in particular for what he called “politicised management” of the auction.

“The Government’s latest failure to reach a revenue goal comes despite the extraordinary intervention by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy in December, when he set an unprecedented reserve price for the 700MHz spectrum,” Turnbull said.

Turnbull did praise the government for its plan to return the unsold spectrum to the market in two to three months.

“It is welcome that the Government plans to make a clear commitment regarding the one third of the 700 Mhz spectrum that was not sold,” Turnbull said.

“While Senator Conroy’s intervention in the auction process means Digital Dividend spectrum worth $1 billion that belongs to taxpayers is left on the shelf, winning bidders are entitled to expect that the unsold spectrum not be brought back to market in the near-term.”

Despite Turnbull’s damning review of the auction, telecom analysts told Computerworld Australia it could have gone far worse.

The result “seems to have been responsibly managed,” given the absence of Vodafone Hutchison Australia, said Gartner analyst Geoff Johnson.

If Conroy had not raised the price of the 700MHz spectrum, the total revenue would have been “way lower,” he said.

IBRS analyst Guy Cranswick agreed: “Given the rules of the auction and the no show of Vodafone it probably went as well as the government could have hoped for.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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Tags politicsmobileMalcolm TurnbullCoalitionStephen ConroyspectrumLaborDigital dividend700Mhz

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