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Thursday, July 18, 2024

ACMA Invites Discussion on Future Spectrum Use

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released a public discussion paper inviting stakeholders to contribute to the future use of Australia’s spectrum – the radio frequencies that facilitate telecommunications over public airwaves, including for mobile phone and internet services.

Many of the current 20-year spectrum licences issued to Australia’s major telcos are set to expire between 2028 and 2032. This spectrum is mainly used to provide mobile telecommunications services across Australia and is highly valued by incumbents.

This is the first time the ACMA has been responsible for considering the future of these licences that, under law, may be renewed, partially renewed, or refused to be renewed.

With the potential release of this spectrum to other users, the expiry of these licences is one of the most critically important issues facing the telecommunications sector over the coming decade.

To inform its future decisions, the ACMA’s paper seeks information from incumbents on their current and future use of this spectrum and from potential new users on alternative uses. In addition, we are seeking views on the use of licence conditions that may improve efficiency and coverage to the benefit of all Australians.

ACMA authority member and spectrum lead Adam Suckling said radio waves are a finite public resource that the ACMA manages with the aim of delivering the most effective social, technological, and economic outcomes.

“Given the critical importance of spectrum usage to industry, the economy, and the public, we are starting the process now – well in advance of the expiry dates,” Mr Suckling said.

“We are talking about very high-value spectrum, ideal for facilitating 5G mobile internet and even 6G as we look ahead over the next decade and beyond.

“We are seeing new technologies and innovations on the horizon, such as network sharing models and satellite applications, that could boost competition nationally as well as improve network coverage in regional areas.

“We recognise that this is not a ‘greenfields’ exercise with the use of some frequency bands for a particular service, such as wireless broadband, not in contention. However, with around three-quarters of long-term spectrum licences expiring, it is timely to consider whether there is potential to enhance competition and provide more choice for consumers.

“These licences will significantly shape the future of Australia’s telecommunications landscape, so it’s important we include as many views in the decision-making process as we can.

“As the ACMA works through this process, we will be guided by the public interest objectives of the Radiocommunications Act and ministerial policy statements. We will look at things such as whether the use of spectrum is efficient, promotes investment, coverage, innovation, and enhances competition,” Mr Suckling said.

The ACMA will release its preliminary views on long-term options for the relevant spectrum in late 2024.


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