Mobile Broadband Strategy caps off decade of work | ACMA

Mobile Broadband Strategy caps off decade of work

Australia’s spectrum regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, has outlined its strategy for addressing the growth in mobile broadband capacity and an associated February 2016 edition work plan in a package released today. It marks the latest iteration in a long-standing body of work over the past decade around mobile broadband spectrum management.

‘The need to accommodate growth in mobile broadband traffic has been one of the greatest challenges for the ACMA, and indeed all spectrum regulators worldwide,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman, whose 10-year tenure at the head of the Authority concludes at the end this week. ‘I’m really pleased that the Authority last week confirmed this strategy and work plan, which I believe will enable the ACMA to continue to be a world-leading regulator in this space and deliver the necessary spectrum as and when needed.’ 

The strategy outline and February 2016 edition of the work plan have been finalised following a comprehensive industry consultation process (which included a discussion paper, Beyond 2020 – A spectrum management strategy to address the growth in mobile broadband capacity (Beyond 2020), released in September last year). The package released today also importantly includes a summary and ACMA response to submissions received to Beyond 2020. A formal response to stakeholder submissions on substantive matters is now part of the ACMA’s DNA.

‘The strategy signals a shift towards greater reliance on a contingency planning model, where the regulator plans for a range of potential outcomes in terms of mobile broadband capacity growth, but still seeks to enable the right spectrum to be made available—at the right time—depending on the scenarios that are unfolding,’ Mr Chapman said.

‘The key to such a contingency planning approach is the ability of the regulator to work with industry and the international community on a range of potential candidate bands at the same time, often over the very extended periods that are required for the development of new, harmonised spectrum uses and subsequent changes in the highest value use of those bands domestically.’

This change in approach is intended for the ACMA to be more flexible and responsive to the rapidly-changing spectrum environment. In place of rigid quantitative targets, a more dynamic approach has been adopted for the identification and planning of spectrum for mobile broadband.

‘The work plan provides an important indication of our forward action plans,’ Mr Chapman added. ‘This will include immediate work on the 1.5 GHz band identified for mobile broadband at last year’s World Radiocommunication Conference as well as pressing on with the reconfiguration of the 900 MHz band.’

The ACMA will include an updated mobile broadband work program in the annual update to its Five-Year Spectrum Outlook (FYSO), or another publication as appropriate in line with the implementation of the recommendations of the government’s Spectrum Review. This also will be used as a way to keep stakeholders informed on the suite of mobile broadband spectrum planning projects.

Today’s package is being released in the lead-up to the ACMA’s flag-ship spectrum management conference RadComms 2016. The full list of RadComms 2016 speakers and final agenda is available here.

Register here today to guarantee your place and an opportunity to engage with this year’s exciting line-up of speakers.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Blake Murdoch, on (02) 9334 7817, 0434 567 391 or media@acma.gov.au.

Media release 11/2016 - 24 February

Backgrounder

The spectrum management implications surrounding the growth in demand for mobile broadband capacity continue to be critical issues for the ACMA. Mobile broadband spectrum management is one area where the ACMA has, for a number of years, provided very detailed public guidance on its associated strategy and work plan. The ACMA’s last substantial publication on this issue was in May 2011 with the release of Towards 2020.

Overall, the evidence suggests that Australia currently has sufficient spectrum available for mobile broadband services in the short to medium term. However, long lead times for making additional spectrum available and the importance of international harmonisation compel the ACMA, as Australia’s spectrum regulator, to press ahead with work in this area if it is to have options available in the very likely scenario that future demand for additional spectrum eventuates.

To that end, in September 2015, the ACMA released the discussion paper, Beyond 2020 – A spectrum management strategy to address the growth in mobile broadband capacity (Beyond 2020). In the paper, the ACMA proposed five key strategies that it would pursue in addressing future mobile broadband demand, including a four-stage process for the consideration of additional spectrum for mobile broadband services.

This approach should provide the ACMA with the capacity to react to demand requirements on a contingency basis if and when needed, and when the evidence suggests that mobile broadband is, or is becoming, the highest value use of a particular band. Consistent with the idea of contingency planning, it is important to appreciate that the appearance of a band at the ‘Monitoring Stage’ does not necessarily imply the eventual re-farming of that band.

Feedback received to the Beyond 2020 consultation process indicated broad support for the five strategies and four-stage process for consideration of additional spectrum for mobile broadband services. With adjustments made to take into account the helpful comments received, the final strategy and February 2016 edition of the mobile broadband work plan have been released today along with a summary and ACMA ‘Response to Submissions’.

The workplan will be used by the ACMA to identify, and keep current in future versions of the FYSO, a list (or ‘pool’) of potential spectrum options that are at varying stages of consideration in the four-stage process.

In essence, the transparent ‘stages’ approach for addressing the growth in mobile broadband capacity recognises both the long timeframes (and significant domestic and international engagement) entailed in the identification of suitable frequency bands for mobile broadband, the sheer uncertainty surrounding demand projections and the precise role new spectrum releases should play in meeting eventual demand.

The ‘stages’ approach can be seen as a long term plan for addressing the full range of contingencies that might arise in relation to future broadband demand. Actual re-planning of bands will only occur if and when the need arises, but the long-term goal is to ensure that there are sound (and deliverable) options to meet any contingency.

RadComms 2016

RadComms—now in its tenth year—is the leading spectrum management conference in Australia. It is the only event where radiocommunications stakeholders can mix and mingle with key decision-makers in a trusted environment while hearing about spectrum developments from government, industry and the ACMA.

RadComms 2016 will include presentations from private and public sector experts, along with high-level government, industry and academic speakers.

The theme for RadComms 2016 is Spectrum Reform–Enabling Innovation. With the outcomes of the Spectrum Review announced in August 2015 and the World Radiocommunications Conference held in November 2015, RadComms 2016 will provide a timely, unique and stimulating opportunity to engage with stakeholders about spectrum reform initiatives, spectrum management and its use.

The high level program sessions includes a discussion on mobile broadband focused on both the ACMA’s mobile broadband strategy and the final report to Government by the Productivity Commission on Public Safety Mobile Broadband.

Last updated: 18 July 2016