Four Australian operators have spent AUD543.5 million ($385 million) in an auction for 1.8GHz spectrum in 12 regions, with the two largest players paying nearly AUD400 million.

Singtel-owned Optus spent AUD196 million while market leader Telstra invested AUD191 million in airwaves in all 12 regions. TPG Intenet paid AUD88 million for its spectrum, and Vodafone Hutchison spent AUD68 million.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) started the auction in late November and the bidding went through 179 rounds to cover 147 separate allocations of small blocks of spectrum. After pressure from Optus and Vodafone, ACMA limited the block size to 2x25MHz out of the available 2x60MHz per region.

The licences have 11-year terms.

Telstra now has 2x25MHz of contiguous 1.8GHz spectrum in nine regions, 2x20MHz in two regions and 2x10MHz in Canberra, while Optus has 2x25MHz in six areas and 2x20MHz in six other areas.

Vodafone has 2x15MHz of contiguous 1.8GHz airwaves in Canberra, 2x10MHz in three areas and 2x5MHz in South Queensland. TPG holds 2x10MHz in eight regions and 2x5MHz in Western New South Wales (NSW).

The regions covered by the spectrum licences are North Queensland, Central Queensland, South Queensland, Northern NSW, Western NSW, Southern NSW, Regional Victoria, Regional SA, Regional WA, Darwin, Canberra and Tasmania.

The CEO of market leader Telstra, Andy Penn, said as a result of the auction, “we’ll be at least doubling the amount of spectrum in the 1.8GHz band that we can use to provide 4G services in these areas. In fact, in some regions we will more than triple the amount available”.