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NBN looks for more wireless spectrum

In other news, Quigley apologises for misplacing Costa Rica

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NBN Co is on the hunt for more wireless spectrum and is currently in talks with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to acquire unallocated 2.2 GHz blocks.

The national carrier is deploying fixed wireless internet services for 4 percent of Australia’s population where the NBN or satellite does not reach. It recently picked up parcels of 2.3 and 3.4 gigahertz spectrum from subscription TV company Austar in a deal worth A$120 million.

The ACMA is currently reviewing Australian spectrum requirements as it determines what will be required to meet Australia's future mobile broadband requirements.

Embattled NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley told a parliamentary inquiry yesterday that wireless will be rolled out before the fibre network.

Quigley indicated that NBN Co is keen on more spectrum in Western Australia. He said that the fixed-wireless component of the NBN would begin roll out in early 2012, but would take a number of years to complete, mostly due to fibre backhaul being installed to NBN points of interconnect, which are tied to the completion of an A$11 billion deal with Telstra.

Fronting the inquiry, Quigley also tried to damp down the snowballing Alcatel-Lucent bribery scandal, in which the company paid backhanders in various South American countries on the basis of fake invoices.

The parliamentary inquiry questioned Quigley over his public admission on Friday his role at Alcatel Lucent during a bribery scandal affecting South America and Asia from 2001-2006.

"I clearly was advised by one of my previous colleagues in North America, who's currently still with Alcatel-Lucent, to check for me whether Costa Rica was within my area of operation and control. On the basis of that advice I stated that it was not,” he explained.

Adding that this “was an error for which I unreservedly apologise." Federal opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said that government and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy should have been more aware of Quigley's role with Alcatel-Lucent.

"He's clearly made a number of mistaken or false statements which he has now corrected and apologised for. There's no effort to impugn his integrity but as representatives of the people whose taxes are paying for this NBN, we are entitled to ask questions and try to get to the facts," Turbull said.

Quigley told the inquiry that he didn’t believe it was his job to start defending Alcatel-Lucent in light of the bribery investigation. ®

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