Bids worth more than $600 million were lodged Wednesday morning in the first round of the Australian Federal Government's mobile phone spectrum auctions.
Hutchison Telecommunications Australia was leading the bids with $196 million, followed by Vodafone Pacific with $193.75 million and Optus Mobile with $185.5 million, according to the Australian Associated Press.
The licences being auctioned are in the 2GHz band and will be used for third-generation (3G) mobile telecommunications, enabling mobile access to voice, data and multimedia-based services.
Licences are for 15 years from October 2002 and the auction is expected to last for several weeks.
Meanwhile, Telecom New Zealand pulled its AAPT subsidiary out of the 3G spectrum auctions on the eve of its launch. AAPT Spectrum was one of seven contenders in the auction, but by Wednesday night, the company had issued a statement saying AAPT had withdrawn its registration.
The statement said Telecom New Zealand would, "continue to assess strategic opportunities for an expanded presence in the Australian mobile market and its decision in respect of the auction is not inconsistent with this."
"As indicated previously, Telecom New Zealand is talking about opportunities with various parties. The company will not identify those parties or comment on the substance of discussions at this stage."
Telecom New Zealand's interest in acquiring the Optus Mobile network has been no secret, but some observers suspect such a purchase would be beyond Telecom New Zealand's resources, especially without the help of a larger player, such as Japan's NTT DoCoMo.