The ACMA

Spectrum for broadcasting

Broadcast planning

3D television

In 2010, the first free-to-air trials of 3D broadcast technology in the world were held in seven locations around Australia. These trials provided valuable information to industry on the application of the new ‘frame compatible’ method of 3D transmission. The trials tested:

  • Production by creating original content by filming live sports events)
  • Transmission by mostly using existing transmission infrastructure)
  • Reception by using new 3D-enabled television sets with active shutter viewing glasses.

The tests also provided viewers with 3D TV receivers in the test transmission areas with the experience of a new and still-evolving form of broadcast television.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) approved the 3D trials under a policy for testing new radiocommunications technology; making spectrum in the broadcasting services bands available for temporary periods for trials that are ‘scientific’ in nature, and relate primarily to the testing of technical functions.

This policy draws on the ACMA’s powers under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Radiocommunications Act 1992.

After approving two sets of trials – one from May to July 2010 and the other from September to October 2010 – the ACMA suspended authorisation of further trials until it considered the policy and consumer issues arising from temporarily-available digital television channels.

As of April 2012, trials of new radiocommunications technologies using unassigned digital television channels will continue to be considered as they arise and in the light of implementation of digital television restack.

The ACMA issued licences to the Nine Network to conduct further trials of 3D television in July and August 2012. The trials are planned for Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney to coincide with the London Olympic Games.

More information concerning trials that the ACMA has authorised can found below.

ACMA policy review

On 1 September 2010, the ACMA released a discussion paper, Temporary trials of 3D TV and other emerging technologies to assist understanding and planning for 3D TV as an emerging format. The key issues in the discussion paper were spectrum availability and the impact on consumers of further trials.

Spectrum availability

3D TV has emerged as a viable broadcast technology at a time when a limited amount of broadcasting spectrum is available for use on a temporary basis.

The 7 MHz digital television channel used for 3D TV trials is only available for a limited period pending completion of the switchover from analog to digital television. As part of this transition:

  • analog television will progressively turn off around Australia between 2010 and 2013
  • UHF channels 52 through to 69 will be restacked through the progressive closure of analog television to create the 126 MHz digital dividend.

In July 2010, the Minster directed the ACMA to clear digital television services from UHF channels 52 through to 69 to VHF channels or UHF channels below channel 52.

To efficiently restack the channels and achieve other planning objectives, changes will also be required for many services operating on UHF channels below channel 52 and some VHF services.

Channel B - the unassigned digital channel used for the 3D TV trials currently available in most areas of Australia - will be subsumed in the restack process.

When restack is completed, each licence area will have one unassigned channel. The long term use for these channels is a decision for the government.

Consumer issues

While the 2010 trials demonstrated the potential of 3D technology, they also highlighted potential problems in trialling a new technology with significant consumer interest while standards are still evolving.

There were reports of consumer concern about the limited geographical coverage of the trials compared to the major networks. During the September/October 2010 trials, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission contacted retailers who made misleading representations about the availability of test transmissions.

The ACMA considers it important that, when considering purchasing 3D TV receivers, consumers understand:

  • the reduced level of coverage typical of trial transmissions
  • the limited duration of the current trials
  • technical standards for consumer equipment have not yet settled - the current generation of 3D receivers might be not be compatible with future transmission methods.

Outcome of the review of 3D TV – the ACMA’s approach in considering 3D TV trials

The ACMA concluded its 3D TV review in early 2011 and decided authorise further trials of 3D TV and other emerging technologies. The ACMA will consider applications on a case-by-case basis and make assessments against the spectrum demands of the digital television switchover and restack.

However, to manage the consumer issues mentioned above and emphasise the short-term availability of spectrum for these trials, the ACMA has set several additional requirements and limitations on the authorisation of trials using unassigned digital television channels. The ACMA is conducting a further review in 2012 to ensure these principles developed for assessing applications for trials remain fit-for-purpose.

Principles for authorising trials using unassigned digital television channels

These principles apply in addition to the ACMA’s guidelines (Dealing with Applications for Apparatus Licences for the Trial of New Radiocommunications Technologies).

  • Trials of new radiocommunications technologies using unassigned digital television channels will be considered by the ACMA as they arise and in the light of the ongoing digital television restack.
  • The ACMA will consider any application in accordance with the ACMA guidelines, Dealing with Applications for Apparatus Licences for the Trial of New Radiocommunications Technologies and these principles.
  • Trials should be short in duration, preferably not exceeding one month, and no longer than is required to cover any the principal events of the trials.
  • In the case of multiple competing applications, the ACMA will follow the procedure set out in the trial guidelines and request that applicants first attempt to reach agreement on sharing access to spectrum.
  • There should be a clear break between the conclusion of one trial and the commencement of another.
  • You must satisfy the ACMA that adequate consumer safeguards are in place to guard against misunderstandings about coverage areas of trial transmissions. To this end, the ACMA may require:
    • that broadcasters run consumer advisories on the broadcasters’ core or primary commercial or national television broadcasting service (if applicable), advising of the limited duration and coverage of the trials;
    • that broadcasters enter into a written agreement with any retailer or manufacturer that is a sponsor or partner in the trial, requiring that any advertising or promotions material include information on the limited coverage and duration of the trials, with a copy of this agreement provided to the ACMA;
    • other matters the ACMA may consider necessary or convenient to ensure that adequate consumer safeguards are in place.

These principles also extend the scope of spectrum considered for trials beyond the unassigned digital channels formally referred to as Channel A and Channel B. They apply to any unused television channels in the broadcasting services bands.

Restack will continue to be given priority for spectrum over trials of new technologies.

Trials using other parts of the radiofrequency spectrum continue to be assessed under the guidelines detailed in Dealing with Applications for Apparatus Licences for the Trial of New Radiocommunications Technologies.

Submissions to the discussion paper

The ACMA received nineteen submissions to its discussion paper, Temporary trials of 3D TV and other emerging technologies. The discussion paper’s webpage links to these submissions.

Further information on 3D TV trials

3D TV trials: 16 July 2012 to 13 August 2012

These 3D TV trials have been licensed for digital broadcasts by the Nine Network on UHF channels in Adelaide (Channel 31), Brisbane (Channel 31), Gold Coast (Channel 50) Melbourne (Channel 35), and Perth (Channel 38) and Sydney (Channel 35). All trials will carry the same programming.

You can view the licence conditions attached by the ACMA. More information on these trials can be found on the Nine Network's website.

3D TV trials: 18 September 2010 to 8 October 2010

These 3D TV trials were broadcast in digital mode by the Nine Network on UHF channels in Sydney (Channel 35), Brisbane (Channel 50) and Newcastle (Channel 35) and by the Seven Network in Melbourne (Channel 35), Adelaide (Channel 29) and Perth (Channel 35). All trials carried the same mix of Nine Network and Seven Network programming.

You can view the licence conditions for this trial.

Download reports of these trials:

Disclaimer: The ACMA takes no responsibility for the accuracy, currency, reliability and correctness of any information included in the Report provided by Nine Network Australia and the Seven Network. The ACMA has published the Report for the purposes of public comment and information, consistent with its functions under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 and Australian Communications and Media Authority Act 2005. Some information has been removed for confidentiality and privacy reasons.

3D TV trials: 19 May 2010 to 19 July 2010

In April 2010, the ACMA received applications from both the SBS and Nine to conduct trials of 3D TV using unassigned broadcasting services band spectrum. Following negotiations between the broadcasters, a single combined trial was conducted.

These 3D TV trials were broadcast in digital mode by the SBS on UHF channels in Sydney (Channel 35), Adelaide (Channel 29) and Perth (Channel 35) and by the Nine Network in Melbourne (Channel 35), Brisbane (Channel 50), Newcastle (NBN Ltd) (Channel 35), and in Wollongong (WIN Television) (Channel 50). Each trial carried both SBS and Nine services. Viewers accessed the trial through logical channel number 40 on a 3D-enabled digital television set.

You can view the licence conditions attached by the ACMA for these trials.

Download copies of reports of these trials:

Disclaimer: The ACMA takes no responsibility for the accuracy, currency, reliability and correctness of any information included in the Reports as provided by Nine Network Australia and SBS Television. The ACMA has published the Reports for the purposes of public comment and information, consistent with its functions under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 and Australian Communications and Media Authority Act 2005.

3D TV commentary and information

General information

Links to other sites

Last updated: 27 August 2015

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