Jan 30, 2014

The Great Australian Reckoning is upon us | Business Spectator

Well, Prime Minister Tony Abbott couldn't have wished to live in more interesting times. A combination of global and local factors are imposing the Great Australian Reckoning on his first term of government, but it is still not clear who the winners and losers will be. That said, the whole country will see standard-of-living declines to some extent.
Overnight, the Federal Reserve announced another $10 billion will be removed from its monthly bond-buying program – that is, it will only artificially increase money supply by $65 billion a month.
Stock markets continued to bounce around before and after the decision, and in some emerging markets there are clear signs of capital being repatriated to more developed economies. However, we cannot yet see the clear long-term impact on the ASX and the Australian dollar.
The more bearish-minded expect the dollar to fall far below 80 cents, and for many stretched valuations on the ASX to dramatically correct.
That view is not irrational (though probably not likely). For more than a decade, our political economy has been riding two horses – resources and the housing finance industry – that have kept money swirling around, GDP growing, unemployment and inflation low, and even won former Treasurer Wayne Swan Euromoney’s ‘Finance Minister of the Year’ award.
But even Swan, while trying to enjoy that accolade in 2011 (as a hostile media rained on his parade) would have known that a reckoning was due. While mining and property spruiking sucked up so much of our attention, and capital, major planks of Australia’s future success were neglected (more on that in a moment).
The Great Australian Reckoning was always going to arrive – the end of a once-in-a-lifetime terms-of-trade boom is happening right now, as international competition and shaky demand from China lower the prices of our commodities exports. That is amplified by a sharp decline in the capital inflows that were funding the construction of resources projects.
And, simultaneously, other sectors of the economy realise that we’ve been paying ourselves too much during the good times. In the list of winners and losers, the union movement is currently being singled out for a painful reckoning (The crumbling pillars of union powerJanuary 30), though it has to be said that they were not the only ones making hay during an extended period of sunshine.
The tale of excess goes back to the Howard years, when tax revenues grew rapidly during the ‘mining boom mark I’ and Peter Costello played Santa with tax cuts and family tax benefits. He even posted families one-off bonus cheques at one point.
As Howard and Costello paid off the federal debt left by Keating, private debt spiralled upwards. Consumers got drunk on the easy credit of the mid- to late-2000s housing boom – a non-productive ‘boom’ in which we took other people’s savings, parked it in our houses, and then drew it down to artificially boost ‘incomes’ to live high on the hog.
And when the GFC slammed the door on that party, the Rudd and Gillard governments took up the slack, borrowing to keep small businesses going through thousands of lucrative government contracts.
This columnist supported the stimulus programs – both of them – and I do not resile from that position. Those closest to the GFC news and data (and Business Spectator staff literally did not sleep much during that crisis) knew that the Rudd-led responses, including the tragically dangerous pink batts scheme and ‘school halls’ job creation program, were decisions taken at a white-hot moment in the global political economy. Large mistakes were made, but mostly we saw larger mistakes made overseas.
That has left Australia with $300 billion in gross debt, and because Labor’s spending programs are hard-wired into the budget, that will grow closer to $500 billion before Treasurer Joe Hockey’s cost-cutting begins to have any effect (and we won’t know how effective that will be until the May budget).
In 2014, the reckoning for all of these excesses is upon us. The Abbott government is walking a tightrope on so many issues. If it succeeds in restructuring the economy over the 2013 to 2019 period, it will be put alongside the Hawke-Keating government as having pulled off major historic reform.
But look at the challenges:
  • it must slow and then turn around the nation’s infrastructure deficit to unlock much-needed productivity gains.
  • it is biting the bullet on one area of advanced manufacturing – the auto industry – but must open the way for other areas (such as auto component exports) to take up the lost jobs.
  • it must encourage the recapitalisation of the agribusiness sector (don’t mention GrainCorp) and stimulate (okay, let’s mention SPC) a new generation of high value-added food exports to feed the emerging Asian middle classes.
  • and it must radically reform the tertiary education sector – a potentially huge export business that, sadly, has been demeaned and stripped of much of its prestige/value by packing too many domestic students into unis and, in the mid- to late-2000s, ripping off foreign students to fund the extra places. And yes, that was done under both the Coalition and Labor governments.
There are many more challenges, but even the short list above looks difficult given the fiscal constraints this government must face up to. And, let’s not forget, there is likely to be a full-blown war with unions in the process.
One is tempted to buy a one-way ticket to a nation with fewer problems to tackle in the years ahead... Spain looks nice!
Seriously though, Australia can negotiate these challenges, particularly if journalists focus less on the acrimonious tribalism that has defined politics in this country for the past few governments and devote more space to how these diabolical policy problems can be solved.

Jan 29, 2014

It is time for Middle East to police its own region | The Australian

Illustration: Eric Lobbecke
Illustration: Eric Lobbecke Source: News Limited
MEMO to US ambassador to Australia John Berry.
When next in direct physical contact with President Barack Obama, please slip this speech into his hand. (Please keep it away from the prying eyes of Vice-President Joe Biden, who, accordingly to former defence secretary Robert Gates, has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.)
I humbly draft this speech for President Obama after spending the last few weeks in the US where newspapers have been busily reporting continuing crises in the Middle East, and failed peace talks, because Sunni and Shia, the two main branches of Islam, are once again pitted against one another.
Mr Ambassador, your President, a gifted orator, has said this is a "year of action". With depressingly low approval ratings, what has he got to lose by delivering this speech:
My fellow Americans, I wish to address you tonight, and through you the wider world, on an issue affecting the ongoing peace and security of our world as we walk through the 21st century. I am referring to the ongoing battles in the Middle East, wars seemingly as old as time itself.
This is a speech I give with a sense of profound disappointment. It is a speech that should have been given long ago by an Arab leader with genuine vision for his region. Alas, that has not happened.
It is a speech I must give because, to be frank, America is sick of its role as the international policeman of first resort.
In the name of human decency and liberty, we helped free the Iraqi people from a government that gassed and slaughtered tens of thousands of its own citizens. We helped liberate the Afghani people from the brutal yoke of the Taliban. We then provided support to put an end to the murderous regime in Libya.
Of course, the US has interests in the Middle East, as it does in Asia and throughout the world. We will never shirk from our role as a nation dedicated to liberty and democracy and defending our interests abroad.
However, tonight I must be brutally frank. America - and I am sure our great allies abroad - has grown tired of being called upon to solve these conflicts.
We have our own ongoing problems to solve, without having to commit our finest sons and daughters, not to mention billions of dollars, to solving crises in the Middle East. And I say to Arab leaders, notice too that that we are moving closer to energy self-sufficiency.
As President of the US I am now being asked to put an end to another internecine civil war, this time in Syria. Once again, Sunni and Shia seem intent on slaughtering each other until the last drop of human blood is spilt.
I am asked to support the opponents of President Bashar al-Assad, a man accused of unleashing chemical weapons against his own citizens. Yet these disparate opposition forces are warring among themselves, and they include jihadist rebels such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria a group labelled as too extremist even by groups associated with al-Qa'ida.
The Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, best described the conflict in Syria as one between bad guys and bad guys. He is right. We need more of this frankness. More than 100,000 people have died during the Syrian civil war. At least 2.5 million Syrians have fled their country and another 9.3 million who remain need humanitarian aid.
While America can do much to help the people of Syria, this is not America's battle. The Geneva II plan would effectively see foreign powers impose a transitional body to reshape the Syrian government. This is an illusory peace. Long term, only the leaders and the people of the Middle East can settle these battles for influence, fought under cover of ancient religious differences, be they in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Lebanon, or elsewhere.
The truth is that this is yet another war between Sunni and Shia, as two central powers battle for influence in the Middle East. Iran's Shia government supports President Assad while the Sunni government of Saudi Arabia supports Sunni opposition forces.
We are witnessing in Syria a proxy war for a deeper, wider battle between Sunni and Shia for the heart and soul of Islam and geo-political power in the Middle East. The fault lines are being felt from Iraq to Pakistan to Lebanon to the Gulf States of Yemen and Kuwait.
After the predictable failure this past week of the naively named peace talks in Switzerland, tonight I call on the leaders of the Arab world, their kings and queens, their presidents and prime ministers, members of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation to take responsibility for Arab problems. This is the first step towards genuine, long-term peace in your region.
The world cannot wait for Sunnis and Shia to continue to slaughter each other in the name of Mohammed and a centuries old conflict about his rightful heir. As Middle East experts have reminded us, this is the world's longest running feud; measured by time, it beats the Catholic-Protestant schism by a factor of three and the Palestinian conflict by a factor of more than 20. Too much blood has been spilt and too much damage has been done to the reputation of Islam over a religious dispute dating back to 632AD that fuelled regional power rivalries ever since.
I say again to the leaders of the Arab world, your time has now come - solving the latest conflict in Syria is your responsibility.
Ultimately the leaders of the Middle East will find their own way to best govern their countries.
Our own experience is that democracy works better than another system yet invented by mankind. Through our democracies, imperfect as they are, we live peacefully with our differences in a tolerant society, resolving debates with words and votes cast at the ballot box, not through the barrel of a gun.
Finally, as part of the resolution of this conflict in the Middle East, I call on Hezbollah and Hamas, and all Arab governments which haven't yet done so, immediately to recognise Israel as the legitimate homeland of the Jewish people. Until that happens there will be no enduring settlement of outstanding issues in the Middle East, whether they are conflicts over land or religion.
While not without fault, Israel has proven its long-term commitment to democracy and liberty and to improving the lives of all Israelis, whether Jewish or not.
In conclusion, I repeat, this is a speech that should have been given by an Arab leader and heeded by fellow Arab leaders. Until it is, peace in the Middle East is ephemeral.
Goodnight and God Bless America.

Jan 25, 2014

Modest flagbearer Reg Sutton who defied Adolf Hitler | The Australian

Modest flagbearer Reg Sutton who defied Adolf Hitler


Modest flagbearer who defied Hitler
Reg Sutton carries the British flag at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Source: Supplied
IT is a Union Jack, an old flag of coarse weave, about the size of a bed sheet.
It has some brown spots on it, and the hemming on the free edge has split in places, and there are some small holes in its fabric.
I have touched it. I helped take it out of the cardboard box where it was kept with another pennant, some blazer shields from an English swimming team, a couple of shoulder patches from a World War II naval uniform.
I looked at photos of a tall, good-looking young man with the body of an athlete, dark-haired, strong jawed, who once bore it with honour far beyond ordinary reckoning.
Reginald James Cushing Sutton was 19 when he swam for Britain in the Amsterdam Olympics of 1928, 23 when he swam for Britain in the Los Angeles Olympics of 1932.
And he was 27 when he played water polo for Britain at the Berlin Olympics of 1936 - and single-handedly defied Adolf Hitler and the might of the Nazi regime, refusing to lower his nation's flag as he marched past the German leader.
All the "Jews Not Welcome" signs had been removed from Berlin before the visiting athletes arrived.
The Games were a huge victory for Germany and the Third Reich, with a medal total of 89, against the next closest, 56 for the US.
Hitler, Albert Speer, Joseph Goebbels and the entire Nazi Ministry of Propaganda exploited their Olympic triumph.
But there was at least one fly in the ointment for Germany.
Jesse Owens, an African-American sprinter, won four gold medals: for the 100m sprint, the 200m sprint, the long jump and the 4x100m relay. Owens won more gold medals than any other competitor in the world, and he became the popular hero of the Berlin Olympics.
Hitler neither publicly received Owens, nor publicly acknowledged him or any of his stunning performances. This failure outraged the British and American Olympic teams, and in particular Sutton, whose duty it was to carry the British Flag, the Union Jack, in the closing ceremony.
Protocol required flagbearers of each nation to lower their flags as they drew level with Hitler.
Before Britain in the parade were Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France - each one dipping their flags to Hitler and his cronies standing on the dais as the nations marched past.
And then came Sutton, bearing the Union Jack at the head of the team from Britain.
He marched tall and maybe trembling but resolutely past Hitler and the hierarchy of the Third Reich, who had come to bask in the reflected glory of the formal obeisance from so many countries.
Sutton did not dip the Union Jack to Hitler.
When they realised what had happened, the crowds in the stands erupted with boos and hissing and cat-calls, but Sutton and the British team marched on, their flag held high.
When they reached the area where the teams gathered after the march, Brownshirts surrounded Sutton, escorted him from the Olympic arena and took him to the boat train for Ostend. He was not even allowed to collect his personal belongings.
Twenty-seven years old and he had defied Hitler in the most public possible way in the very heart of Nazi Germany.
Perhaps Hitler was unaware of why the flag of Britain did not bow to him - although Sutton's daughter, Angela Crammond, thinks he did - but the German leader knew he had been insulted.
Sutton saw something in Hitler that many others at the time willed themselves not to see, and he launched his protest from an arena where the only ticket of entry was an Olympic athlete's valour.
His protest was all the more powerful for being made from such a place.
"He was essentially a modest man" Ms Crammond said. "He never spoke of this adventure outside the family and then in a joking way to us as children."
Sutton married a year after the Berlin Games. He had another chance to challenge Hitler, serving in Britain's Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as a surgeon lieutenant commander on North Atlantic convoys, at Scapa Flow and in the Mediterranean in defence of Malta.
Ms Crammond thinks at least one of his ships was sunk under him.
In a newspaper interview, Owens said he was treated better at the Olympic Games in Germany than he was at home, where he was not allowed to stay in the same hotels as whites. He said maybe Hitler didn't shake his hand, but neither did US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Later, at a reception in his honour at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, Owens had to use the service elevator because he was black. He had to wait 19 years until president Dwight D. Eisenhower, himself an enthusiastic sportsman, made Owens international ambassador for sports for the US.
There were other heroes besides Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games, but I doubt that any stood taller than Sutton.
Nowhere can I discover any record of public recognition for the courage of Sutton.
Instead, he was bundled on to the boat train to Ostend, an embarrassment to all concerned - still holding the flag.
He kept that flag all his life. His family draped it over his coffin 58 years later.
Ms Crammond has it now.

Jan 24, 2014

Start-ups tied down by regulation look for growth overseas | The Australian

HUGH Geiger, a 32-year-old Brisbane-based entrepreneur, is gearing up to launch one of the most interesting ventures of his life -- the CloudPhone3G, a wearable communications device aimed at helping the elderly.
Written up in Forbes magazine in November, Geiger and his partners have raised more than $50,000 on an international crowd-sourcing website for the product, which is worn around the neck and allows for a push-of-a-button emergency phone call by its wearer.
It has substantial potential for the elderly and also for parents monitoring their children, and has already attracted substantial interest overseas. However, Geiger feels the tax and regulatory environment for start-ups in Australia is so restrictive that he is already thinking he may have to move his company offshore.
This was one of the messages delivered to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull by the Australians he met on his visit to Silicon Valley last week.
It also comes on the news that one of Australia's most successful software start-ups, the Sydney-based Atlassian, is considering moving to Britain, which has a much better tax regime for fast-growing companies.
Australia has an increasing number of smart young entrepreneurs who are heading overseas to places such as the Silicon Valley to take their company or careers to the next level.
Turnbull, who made his fortune investing in the start-up OzEmail in the very early days of the internet, in the mid-1990s, is well connected in the tech start-up space in Australia and is keenly aware of what needs to be done to help develop a more powerful start-up culture in Australia.
Speaking from the US, after his visit to Silicon Valley, Turnbull says there are two impediments to developing a start-up culture that need to be addressed in Australia.
The first is the tax treatment of employee share options, which was changed under the previous Labor government so that options are taxed as income when they are awarded, not as capital gains when they pay out several years down the track.
The ethos of Silicon Valley start-ups is all around paying employees very little in cash in return for options in the company that could pay off big-time if the company takes off.
The Australian laws make this all but impossible, as the options are taxed as income in the hands of the employee in the year they are awarded, a much harsher regime than in many places overseas. where options are taxed when they pay out, and then often at the much lower capital gains rate.
Geiger, who set up a business called Ollo Mobile, says he would like to recruit talented engineers to help his business grow, but the Australian tax laws mean he can not offer them the same sort of incentives they would get working for a similar start-up overseas.
Geiger says he would love his company to stay in Australia, "but it is very difficult to do business here".
"The tax structure and other rules around early-stage financing (for start-ups) make it very difficult for international investors," he says.
The other issue Turnbull and others identify is the legality and rules in Australia around crowd funding, which has been a key source of funding for start-ups in the US and Europe.
In the US, the rules around crowd funding were clarified with the passage in 2012 of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, which was followed by more specific enabling legislation last year.
US crowd-funding company Kickstarter has recently set up an Australian operation, but the regulatory regime in Australia is a lot more grey.
The federal government asked the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee to have a look at the issue last September.
Sydney lawyer Nick Abrahams from Norton Rose Fulbright is one of those campaigning for a change in the laws to encourage more start-ups.
Abrahams argues that specific legislation needs to be passed in Australia, as has happened overseas, to allow for a proper crowd-funding regime that can protect investors and entrepreneurs.
The internet is a powerful force eroding the tyranny of distance that faces Australia.
But capital can also move anywhere at the click of a button and creative Australians can move overseas with increasing ease.
It's time to think beyond the mining boom. Unless things change, Australia will lose both creative talent and much-needed business opportunities.
Glenda Korporaal is editor of The Deal magazine.

Jan 23, 2014

Better productivity can mitigate costs of living | The Australian

Better productivity can mitigate costs of living


AVERAGE living standards rose by only 0.1 per cent in the year to September and likely declined in the December quarter. Yesterday's inflation figures show the cost of living is rising rapidly as services like health and education become ever more expensive while the long slide in the prices of imported goods comes to an end. Average wages have been rising at the slowest rate almost on record.
The Abbott government faces the prospect of declining living standards throughout the first term of government, a political challenge not confronted since Bob Hawke in the early 1980s.
Productivity growth is weak, the prices Australia gets for its exports are falling while a diminishing share of the population is working to support an expanding number of aged and other dependants. The budget is in bad shape with spending cuts destined to hurt sectors of the community.
It marks the end of what has been a glorious era of growth, one without precedent in the last century. Those on higher incomes have done best, but all sectors of society have been huge winners.
The NATSEM institute at the University of Canberra estimates that after matching incomes with living costs, the top 20 per cent of income households are 70 per cent better off than they were 25 years ago while the bottom 20 per cent are 42 per cent better off.
We're using our new affluence to buy more services while goods consume a smaller share of weekly outlays. We are spending more on health, education, childcare, personal fitness, restaurants and travel. Less is going on cars, fridges and lounge suites.
Comparable figures from other countries are not readily available, but an indicator of Australia's relative good fortune is its GDP per person, which has risen 135 per cent in the past decade, more than any other advanced country. The US has grown a third in that period and Britain less than a quarter.
The story of Australia's prosperity has been well told. Productivity growth flowing from the reforms like floating the dollar, tariff cuts, enterprise bargaining and tax reform raised living standards through the 1990s while record prices for commodities, driven by China's remarkable transformation, spread wealth throughout the community through the 2000s.
The high value of the dollar brought falling prices for imported consumer goods while booming company tax revenue was recycled to consumers in the form of tax cuts and family tax benefits.
The resources companies were able to exact a king's ransom from China as it struggled to obtain the vast volumes of resources needed to fuel its growth. But new supplies coming on stream and a slowing Chinese economy are bringing resource prices back to earth. What the commodities cycle gives, it also takes away.
Compounding the problem is the long-anticipated ageing of the population. Baby boomers are now quitting work and collecting the Age Pension. Along with a weak economy, this has already cut the share of the population actually in jobs from 62.6 per cent to 60.8 per cent in the past three years and the decline will continue.
Productivity - the measure of how much the economy produces from the effort of labour, capital and resources that go into it - has been getting steadily worse over the past decade. The economy is about 4 per cent less efficient now than it was in 2004. There is some hope this will lift as highly capital-intensive resource projects are completed and come into production, however, the downturn in productivity is a malaise that has affected most corners of the economy.
The soft income growth has a direct effect on the government's budget. The softness in the economy explained more than half the deterioration in the budget in the three brief months between the pre-election budget update and the midyear update published just before Christmas.
The government does not see revenue growth returning the budget to surplus within the four-year budget outlook in the absence of tough spending cuts. Reduced availability of government benefits and services will further subtract from community living standards.
The Hawke government also confronted falling commodity prices and weak productivity growth in its early years. Former treasurer Paul Keating used his threat that the country risked becoming a "banana republic" to implement a strategy that included harsh cuts to the budget and real reductions in wages, with increases held below the cost of living under the government's "accord" with the unions.
NATSEM estimates that from 1984 to 1988 living costs, including soaring mortgage rates, rose roughly $115 a week more than average wages. There were tiny gains over the remainder of the Hawke and Keating years, which included Australia's last recession.
The Howard, Rudd and Gillard governments all enjoyed much kinder times, with earnings rising much faster than costs. NATSEM estimates the average gain at about $15,000 for each household.
The Coalition made good political capital out of the rising cost of living in the lead-up to last year's election pointing in particular to utility costs that bore the impact of the carbon tax. Utility bills deliver a "sticker shock" when they arrive, but they are less than 5 per cent of consumer spending which is about the same as holidays. The increase in utility bills over the past two decades has been more than offset by the fall in the cost of clothing.
Now in government, the Coalition confronts a much more challenging outlook where living costs in total will outweigh growth in earnings. Any effort by unions to preserve real wages would directly generate much larger unemployment.
This is the hand that the government has been dealt. There is nothing it can do about declining commodity prices and little it can do to influence the participation rate.
A commitment to productivity enhancing reform is needed, but this is a slow burn.
David Uren is The Australian's Economics editor

Hot-desking cools city office market | The Australian

HOT-DESKING and cost cutting have left CBD offices around the country with more empty space than at any time in the past 17 years.
For the first time in more than a decade, CBD office markets recorded negative net absorption - where more tenants left than leased space - with companies vacating 242,500 square metres more office space than was leased, according to real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle.
The amount of empty office space rose to 11.4 per cent of the total supply, the highest since 1997.
Major corporates have tightened budgets since the global financial crisis, searching for ways of using less office space and pulling back on expensive CBD rents.
Law firms like Herbert Smith Freehills have moved to open plan offices, while a host of companies have gone a step further to hot-desking, where the workers don't have a specific space.
Hot-desking can cut up to 30 per cent of a company's office space, while most companies that move to a new building will typically take about 15 per cent less space than what they had previously, according to agents.
The Commonwealth Bank turned to hot-desking, which those in the industry like to call "activity-based workspace", three years ago in its Sydney head office at Darling Walk.
Claire Roxburgh, who works at the bank's head office, said she liked the flexibility of moving to different parts of the office to suit different tasks she was working on.
Commonwealth Bank chief financial officer David Craig said it was an evolution of the modern workspace, with technology allowing companies to change the way its employees work and engage with each other.
"The idea is that they are very mobile and their work can go with them easily, and that fits very well with the whole theme," Mr Craig said.
"Everyone has a very light laptop and they go to different spaces (of the office) for different work and take their laptop with them. Most of the material they use is electronic, rather than being in paper form."
Accounting firm KPMG is piloting the move in its Sydney and Melbourne offices.
KPMG director of change management Suzanne Murray-Prior said that it saved money.
"We've recognised that a lot of people weren't actually sitting at their desks when they are in the office as they are at meetings and having catch-ups, so it really does free up space," Ms Murray-Prior said.
While many office landlords frowned on the concept, two of Australia's largest property landlords, Dexus Property Group and GPT Group, use hot-desking themselves.

Jan 22, 2014

Australian Mobile Network Frequencies

Know your ISP.

Australian Mobile Network Frequencies

There are many different mobile phone frequencies in operation in Australia and around the world. This entry aims to clear up any misunderstandings you may have as to the frequencies your phone requires to work correctly on your carrier.


2G, other wise known as GSM, is standard on almost all phones (except CDMA phones in the USA). Most new phones come with quad band GSM support. A quad band GSM phone supports 850, 900, 1800, and 1900MHz.
2G is old technology and provides a fall back position when 3G coverage is unavailable.
Australian 2G bands:
  • 900Mhz (Telstra, Optus & Vodafone)
  • 1800Mhz (Telstra, Optus & Vodafone)


There are several 3G networks operating in Australia. 3G frequencies are usually specified as UMTS/HSDPA or WCDMA frequencies on the mobile phone specifications.
Australian 3G bands:
  • 850MHz (Telstra, Vodafone) – Exclusive 3G band
  • 900MHz (Optus, Vodafone) – available in most metro areas on Optus, with both Optus and Vodafone re-farming the 2G 900 spectrum in regional and rural areas
  • 2100MHz (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone) – Exclusive 3G band


Australia is currently using these LTE bands (LTE bandmask in brackets):
  • 2100Mhz (B1) FDD (0000000000000001) – Telstra (3G spectrum)
  • 1800Mhz (B3) FDD (0000000000000004) – Telstra, Optus, Vodafone
  • 900Mhz (B8) FDD (0000000000000080) – Telstra, Vodafone?, Optus (utilises spectrum previously used by 2G)
  • 2300Mhz (B40) TDD (0000008000000000) – Optus (Vivid wireless spectrum)
To follow late 2014:
  • 2600Mhz (B7) FDD (0000000000000040) – Telstra, Optus, TPG?
  • 700Mhz (B28) FDD (0000000008000000) – Telstra, Optus

LTE (Long Term Evolution)/ 4G – more information

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone sell dual mode LTE/ HSPA+ mobile broadband devices that operate seamlessly across 2100Mhz, 1800MHz, 900Mhz and 850MHz spectrum bands, providing customers with 4G(LTE) data where it is available and then seamless switchover to the 3G HSPA technology in other areas. Voice is currently 3G only
In April(2011) Vodafone announced it will replace 8000 2G and 3G base stations with equipment which can be switched to LTE "at the flick of a switch".
In September 2012, Optus announced the activation of its 1800 MHz 4G LTE service in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Newcastle. 1800 4G was first trialled in Newcastle (mid 2012). Brisbane and the GoldCoast 4G was activated on 31st October 2012 andAdelaide, just in time for Christmas.

4G Band Plans

Note: During 2013, Telstra Vodafone and Optus by arrangement, swapped 1800Mhz spectrum allocations to provide each with 2 x 20Mhz of contiguous spectrum.
Telstra 1800MHz, 2100Mhz and 900MHz FDD-LTE (see below)
The 1800 service is currently rolled out with 10, 15 and 20MHz carriers. Operating frequencies are as follows:
Most areas in Australia including regional Victoria 4G have carriers with up to 15MHz bandwidth:
  • Tower Tx: 1805-1820MHz
  • Tower Rx: 1710-1725MHz
New South Wales and Metro Melbourne & Geelong have carriers with up to 10MHz bandwidth:
  • Tower Tx: 1805-1815MHz
  • Tower Rx: 1710-1720MHz
Telstra indicates it will roll-out out 900MHz LTE in mid 2013 to increase coverage depth. This will be a re-farm of 2G 900 spectrum. A 5Mhz bandwidth LTE carrier is the most likely solution. Ref. It will deploy 900/1800 carrier aggregation.
Optus 1800 (FDD-LTE) + 2300 MHz (TDD-LTE)
The 2300 MHz Band 40 Optus spectrum was obtained courtesy of the Vivid Wireless acquisition. It provides up to 98MHz bandwidth in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide. Canberra may be one of the first 2300 4G locales with a 3 x 20Mhz channel roll-out, sometime in 2013. It is called 4G Plus by Optus.
ref1ref2ref3. Excellent Optus 4G band allocation and explanation here
The Optus 1800MHz FDD-LTE service currently supports up to 20MHz of duplex bandwidth.
10Mhz carrier
  • Transmission Downlink: 1840MHz – 1850MHz
  • Transmission Uplink: 1745MHz – 1755MHz
The Optus 2300 TDD-LTE service provides up to 98MHz of continuous spectrum:
Optus have plans to convert the 2300MHz band into a TDD-LTE service. TDD differs from normal FDD-LTE services by using only one frequency band to serve as both an upload and download channel. This means that 98MHz of spectrum must be shared between both upload and download, and while this may offer some benefits in dynamically scaling back upload bandwidth to support higher downloads (or vice versa), this means that we shouldn't be quite as excited about the 98MHz of bandwidth as we might have initially been.
Vodafone 4G
The Vodafone 1800MHz FDD-LTE service currently supports up to 20MHz of duplex bandwidth.

Telstra 3G (NextG)
NextG is Telstra's 3G offering. It operates on the 850 Mhz frequency in all areas (with some busy areas more recently using 2100Mhz for extra capacity). For full NextG support throughout Australia, you should get a phone that supports UMTS 850.
Previously, if you did not use a phone with 850 Mhz 3G support, the Telstra/Three joint network known as 3GIS was available on 2100 Mhz 3G within Metro areas. As of September 2012, the 3GIS network has been shut down, however some 3GIS base stations have been repurposed to the NextG network.
Telstras Network is made up of DC-HSPA+ (42Mbps), HSPA+ (21Mbps) and HSPA (7.2Mbps) towers depending on location. Note: requires confirmation
  • Tower Rx /Tower Tx
The Telstra 850MHz NextG services operates on one of 2 paired 5 or 10 MHz channels.
ie 830 – 845 MHz (Tower Rx) and 875 – 890 MHz (Tower Tx)
  • 830 – 835 / 875 – 880 MHz – 1 x paired 5Mhz channel
    ACMA Centre Frequencies: 832.5Mhz (Tower Rx)/ 877.5Mhz (Tower Tx)
  • 835 – 845 / 880 – 890 MHz – 1 x paired 10Mhz channel
    ACMA Centre Frequencies: 840Mhz (Tower Rx)/ 885Mhz (Tower Tx)
  • 2100MHz NextG services ... *** to be completed ***.

Optus 3G – more information
Note: Optus is now licensed for 2100 MHz in a number of rural locations.
The Optus 3g operates on dual frequencies; 900 and 2100 MHz.
Optus 900 Mhz 3G is provided by 're-farming' their national 900 2G band for both 2g and 3G services; predominantly in regional and rural areas, now also available in most metro areas for 3G use. Optus pioneered 3g 're-farming' of 900 2G bandwidth. The Optus WCDMA carrier is centered in the middle of their 8.4 Mhz 900 allocation; providing a single 3G 3.84 Mhz bandwidth WCDMA carrier and 10 x GMSK 200kHz wide GSM channels, on either side of the WCDMA channel. It is a delicate Optus balancing act using scarce 900 bandwidth. ref ACMA pdf ref ACMA pdf More information about 900mhz Optus – Posts by davmel
  • Optus – Tower Rx /Tower Tx
    • 898.4 – 906.8 / 943.4 – 951.8 MHz, 1 x paired 8.3MHz channel
The Optus 2100 MHz 3G band is predominantly deployed in cities and major regional areas. The ACMA has recently granted Optus, an additional 972 x 2100 MHz licences for regional and rural capacity expansion – ref ACMA ref Optus Media Release
  • Optus – Tower Rx /Tower Tx
    • tba

Vodafone 3G
Operates on dual frequencies; 900 and 2100 MHz.
Vodafone are also rolling out a 3G 850 range with aim to have it completed by 2012. See More
  • Tower Rx /Tower Tx
    • 906.8 – 915 / 951.8 – 960 MHz, 1 x paired 8.3MHz channel

3G Hi-band 1900-2100Mhz
The 3G Hi-band 1900-2100Mhz is used by Optus, Telstra and VHA.
  • Tower Rx /Tower Tx
    • 1920 – 1980Mhz (tower Rx), 2110 – 2170Mhz (tower Tx) using multiple paired 5Mhz and 10Mhz channels
** to be completed **

Optus and Vodafone resellers (Virgin, TPG, Exetel, etc)

These companies provide 3G services on the 2100 Mhz band in Metro areas and some Regional areas and on 900 Mhz.
Virgin is also providing 4G services on the Optus 1800 Mhz LTE Network
For full 3G support throughout Australia, you should get a phone that supports UMTS 900/2100.

Importing Phones from Overseas

Importing phones from the UK/Europe will likely mean receiving a UMTS 900/2100 phone. Make sure this is suitable for you!
Importing phones from the US will result in either a 850/1900 or 850/1900/2100 or 1700/2100 or 900/1700/2100 UMTS phone (make sure you don't import a CDMA phone). AT&T usually supply 850/1900 models sometimes with the addition of 2100 Mhz. T-Mobile usually supply 1700/2100 models sometimes with the addition of 900. Double check the frequency specifications before importing!
Carriers in Canada also support UMTS 850/1900 along with 1700 Mhz, therefore NextG compatible phones may be sourced there also.


Do WCDMA 850, UMTS 850 and 3G 850 refer to the same type of 850 frequency?
Each term conveys different pieces of information but all leading to the same point.
For example 3G networks are build on the UMTS standard, use WCDMA as the air interface and have HSDPA or HSPA to support data connections.

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