KWM helps Telstra improve mobile network quality, negotiating Australian-first spectrum defragmentation

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Mobile network users in many Australian capital cities are enjoying a 10 – 20 percent increase in 4G speed, thanks to an Australian-first spectrum re-stack between Telstra and TPG. 

KWM acted as legal advisors to Telstra on the project, under which Telstra and TPG defragmented blocks of isolated or fragmented spectrum holdings, enabling each to obtain larger contiguous bands of spectrum and consequentially increase the efficiency of their mobile networks. 

The agreement sees Telstra and TPG defragment and re-stack their respective 1800MHz and 2100MHz spectrum bands in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart and Perth these cities, resulting in overall Telstra 4G speeds improving by between 10 and 20 per cent.

Telstra Group Executive Networks & IT Nikos Katinakis called the outcome as a 'win' for customers.

This is the first time ever that two mobile network operators in Australia have agreed to mutually re-stack their spectrum holdings in the absence of regulatory direction. Spectrum is a highly regulated asset and telcos must comply with licences that only allow them to operate radiocommunications devices (eg antennas) within pre-determined spectrum bands. 

To implement the re-stack, Telstra and TPG agreed to temporarily authorise each other to use spectrum that they own so that they can adjust their radiocommunications devices to work in the new spectrum "blocks" that are being defragmented.  Telstra and TPG also agreed to work together to request that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) vary their existing spectrum licences to reflect their final spectrum holdings after the re-stack.

KWM Technology Law partner Kate Creighton-Selvay led the work, with support from solicitor Jonathan Beh.

Commenting on the re-stack, Kate Creighton-Selvay said:

"Being a first, a key challenge for this project was ensuring regulators, in particular the ACMA, understood the agreement structure and what Telstra and TPG were trying to achieve.

"We're delighted to assist Telstra achieve an outcome that is already having a clear and tangible benefit for the company and its customers."