The ACMA

Radiocomms licensing

Apparatus licences

Low power open narrowcasting (LPON)

Low power open narrowcasting (LPON) services are used for niche radio broadcasting services to a limited reception area, such as tourism and other information services. This page describes the use and conditions of LPON licences.

LPON services operate on very low power and their range is much more limited than other radio broadcasting services. This may mean that an LPON service may only be receivable in a portion of its potential coverage area. This reality is reflected in the cost of obtaining an LPON licence.

About LPON services

The ACMA's spectrum plans assume that LPON services are secondary to the provision of long term, higher power community, national, commercial or high power open narrowcasting services made available in Licence Area Plans (LAPs).

An LPON service must not be operated as a commercial or community radio broadcasting service. There are penalties for providing a commercial or community radio broadcasting service without an appropriate licence. For example, if a person is successfully prosecuted for providing a commercial radio service without an appropriate licence, the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 has penalties of up to $200,000.

As the name suggests, an LPON service must fit the definition of open narrowcasting. Before purchasing an LPON transmitter licence, you may wish to obtain a Section 21 opinion from the ACMA about whether your proposed service is categorised as narrowcasting.

On 1 April 2017 the Broadcasting Services (additional conditions – Open Narrowcasting Radio Services) Notice 2002 was repealed automatically by operation of Part 4 of Chapter 3 in the Legislation Act 2003.

This means that as 1 April 2017, HPON and networked LPON services providers do not have to give the ACMA a statement explaining how reception of their services is limited in a way described in paragraph (18)(1)(a) of the Act. Providers of these services are however reminded that the removal of this particular requirement does not reduce or remove their legal obligation to comply with the limitation requirement in paragraph 18(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

If you do not comply with licence conditions, the ACMA may take regulatory action under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act). The ACMA has adopted a graduated regulatory approach. Regulatory action can include warning notices, fines, suspension or cancellation of your licence, or prosecution.

For more information on open and subscription narrowcasting radio services, please refer to our guidelines on Narrowcasting for Radio.

Limitations on LPON services

Limited reception

The reception of LPON services is always limited in some way. For example, reception may be limited because the program content is targeted to special interest groups, or the services are intended for limited locations.

Available frequencies

The availability of LPON services is limited to the FM frequencies centered on 87.6 MHz, 87.8 MHz and 88.0 MHz.

There are seven licensed LPON services operating between 88.1 MHz and 108.0 MHz of the broadcasting services bands (BSB). These services were planned by the former Australian Broadcasting Authority and it is unlikely that any more LPON licences will be made available in the BSB.

LPONs operating between 88.1 MHz and 108.0 MHz (.doc)

LPON services operating in the BSB are subject to the same licence conditions as the LPON services operating on 87.6–88.0 MHz. However, because these services are within the BSB, the following also applies: 

a.    the ACMA may consider moving an existing LPON to an alternative frequency to make way for radio services planned in a LAP

b.    the ACMA is not obliged to find replacement spectrum for LPON licences.

Review of the operation of LPON services

In February 2013 the ACMA released a public consultation paper which canvassed possible amendments to the LPON regime. One of the outcomes of this review was the now completed consolidation of LPONs operating between 88.1 MHz and 108.0 MHz (the in-band) into the standard 87.5 MHz – 88.0 MHz band (the sub-band).

The LPON’s were moved to frequencies in the sub-band. However, for a small number frequencies were not available and they have been permitted to remain in the main band.

Exclusion zones

In some areas, LPON frequencies are restricted because of the need to protect existing FM radio services operating on 88.1 MHz and 88.3 MHz. Table 1 of the Planning Model defines the exclusion zones for LPON services to protect FM broadcasting services on 88.1 MHz and 88.3 MHz. These exclusion zone boundaries are available in Shapefile format (ZIP, 6 mb) suitable for use in Geographic Information System (GIS) software, and as a Google Earth placemark (KMZ, 1 MB).

A list of existing LPON services that are permitted to operate within the defined exclusion zones is available for download here. If a licence for an LPON transmitter in this list is cancelled due to contravention of licence conditions, no new licences will be allocated at that site.

Power and coverage limitations

The operating power for LPON services is limited to a maximum of 1 watt effective radiated power ERP in residential areas and 10 watts ERP in non-residential areas.

LPON licensees must comply with the received signal field strength levels set for LPON services. The received signal field strength must not exceed 48 decibels above one microvolt per metre at 2 km from the LPON transmitter site in residential areas or at 10 km from the LPON transmitter site in non-residential areas. To meet the field strength limitations of the licence conditions, you will be expected to reduce the transmitter power or ERP accordingly.

The intended coverage area of LPON services is also limited. LPON services operating in residential areas may cover an area within a 2 km radius of the transmitter site. For LPONs operating in non-residential areas, the coverage area may be within a radius of 10 km from the transmitter site.

Limited protection from interference

LPON services have no guarantee against interference from broadcasting services. On the other hand, within its licence area, a broadcasting service is protected against interference from LPON services.

No security of tenure

LPON licences are made available on a 'buyer beware' basis and have no guaranteed tenure of radiofrequency spectrum. If spectrum is required by the ACMA for any reason, such as to plan new mainstream broadcasting services or to vary the conditions of existing mainstream broadcasting services, affected LPON spectrum may be resumed by the ACMA (without compensation), and there is no obligation to find replacement spectrum.

Minimum separation distance requirements

To minimise interference between LPON services using the same or an adjacent frequency, LPON services are restricted to the minimum separation distance requirements in the following table:

LPON carrier frequency separation
(kHz)

Separation distance
between
1 W ERP LPON transmitters
in kilometres (km)

Separation distance
between
10 W ERP LPON transmitters
(km)

Separation distance
between
1 W ERP and
10 W ERP LPON transmitters
(km)

0

10

30

20

200

5

15

10

400

0

0

0

'Use it or lose it' condition

On 22 December 2000, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts provided the ACMA with directions instructing it to impose 'use it or lose it' conditions on all LPON services that operate in the sub-band (87.5–88.0 MHz).

Under this condition, you are required to commence operation within six months of allocation of your licence, continue to provide a service with reasonable regularity and maintain records of the commencement, hours of operation and provision of a service under your licence.

The main purpose for imposing a 'Use it or lose it' condition is to prevent persons from obtaining LPON licences, then not operating them. This is known as 'hoarding'. The hoarding of LPON transmitter licences is not permitted. You must commence a service within six months of being issued a LPON licence and provide the service with reasonable regularity, unless there are valid reasons for not doing so. The ACMA may cancel your transmitter licence if this condition is not met.

How to obtain an LPON transmitter licence

The ACMA issues the transmitter licences for LPON services by way of a price-based allocation process (PBA). Read the LPON applicant information package for more information.

The ACMA is inviting applications for potential transmitter licences for LPON services to be determined under the LPON Planning Model. The ACMA will accept applications for locations Australia wide.  To be eligible to participate in the application process application documents must be completed and submitted by the closing date of the application window period. The application windows are detailed below:

Upcoming Rounds

  • 11.00am Monday 24 July 2017 to 11:00am Monday 7 August 2017
  • 11:00am Monday 23 October 2017 to 11:00am Monday 6 November 2017

Completed Round:  11:00am Monday 24 April 2017 to 11:00am Monday 8 May 2017

The ACMA uses a simple planning model to facilitate the licensing of LPON transmitters without having to conduct detailed broadcast planning. The planning model is designed to provide interference free reception between LPON services, but not between an LPON service.

The ACMA assesses each application for a new LPON transmitter site and frequency against the planning model. Where the details are consistent with the planning model, the ACMA will proceed to make an LPON licence available at the nominated site, through the price based allocation process.

It is important to note that if you are the only applicant, the ACMA will offer you the opportunity to acquire a licence at its reserve price. Where there is more than one applicant, the ACMA will hold an open-outcry auction to allocate the licence

See previous auction results.

Definition of residential areas and non-residential areas

For the purposes of LPON licensing, a residential area is an area within 20 km of an Urban Centre or Locality as defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in the 2001 Census. A complete list of such areas is on the ABS website at www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/2909.02001?OpenDocument. A non-residential area is an area at least 20 kilometres from the boundary of an Urban Centre or Locality.

The current residential area boundaries can be downloaded in Shapefile format (ZIP, 6 MB) suitable for use in Geographic Information System (GIS) software. The residential area boundaries are also available as a Google Earth placemark (KMZ, 1 MB).

Further information

Email: info@acma.gov.au
Phone: 1300 850 115
Fax: 02 6219 5347

Mail to:
LPON Allocations
Operations and Services Branch
Australian Communications and Media Authority
PO Box 78
Belconnen ACT 2616

Last updated: 05 July 2017

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