Wireless access services | ACMA

Wireless access services

This page discusses wireless access services (WAS) - the different ways telecommunications carriers, internet service providers (ISPs) or other service providers deliver a radio connection from an end-user to a core network, such as a public switched telephone network, the internet, or a local/wide area network.

WAS covers a range of other terms such as:

  1. fixed wireless access (FWA)

  2. broadband wireless access (BWA)

  3. wireless local loop (WLL)

  4. multipoint distribution system (MDS) and

  5. radio local area network (RLAN).


More information

WAS planning history in Australia

825–845 MHz & 870–890 MHz

In 1998 and 1999, the former Australian Communications Authority (ACA) auctioned 15-year spectrum licences for these bands (sold as paired spectrum) for personal communications services (PCS). The bands were auctioned in the following areas:

  1. 2 x 20 MHz from 825–845/870–890 MHz in metropolitan areas

  2. 2 x 5 MHz from 825–830/870–875 MHz in regional and remote areas

  3. 2 x 10 MHz from 835–845/880–890 MHz in regional and remote areas

In March 2001 residual spectrum was sold in the 800 MHz band (2 x 5 MHz from 830–835/875–880 MHz) in regional and remote areas.

In total, the 800 MHz auctions raised over $200 million. The bands are mainly used to provide mobile telephony services.

890–915 MHz & 935–960 MHz

In 1992, public telecommunications service (PTS) apparatus licences were issued in the bands 890–915 MHz and 935–960 MHz. The bands are being used to provide extensive GSM mobile telephony services. You can read the 900 MHz Band Plan.

1.5 GHz

The band 1427–1535 MHz has traditionally been used for fixed point to point links and Telstra's point-to-multipoint digital radio concentrator system (DRCS) network used for the delivery of public telecommunications services.

The band 1452–1492 MHz is currently subject to replanning for digital audio broadcasting (DAB). After reviewing spectrum planning arrangements in the 1.5 GHz band it was decided to permit point-to-multipoint systems, including BWA, in the paired spectrum bands 1432.5–1450.5 MHz and 1493–1511 MHz where they can be coordinated.

Full coordination arrangements are contained in Radiocommunications Assignment and Licensing Instruction (RALI) FX03.

1.8 GHz

In 1998, the ACA auctioned 15-year spectrum licences in this band for PCS. The bands were auctioned in the following areas:

  1. 2 x 45 MHz from 1710–1755/1805–1850 MHz in metropolitan areas

  2. 2 x 15 MHz from 1710–1725/1805–1820 MHz in regional areas

In March 2000 the ACA auctioned spectrum licences for additional spectrum in the 1.8 GHz band. The remaining 2 x 30 MHz of spectrum from 1755–1785/1850–1880 MHz was offered in metropolitan areas.

In total, the 1.8 GHz auctions raised over $1.5 billion. The band is mainly used to provide mobile telephony services.

1900–1920, 1920–1980 & 2110–2170 MHz

In March 2001 the former ACA auctioned spectrum licences in these bands for 3G mobile telephony services. In total, 48 lots were sold for $1.17 billion; more information about the auction is available. The band 1900–1920 MHz was offered in major city areas only; the bands 1920–1980 MHz and 2110–2170 MHz were offered in major city and regional areas.

In April 2010 the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) finalised arrangements to allow Public Telecommunications Services (PTS) to be apparatus licensed in regional and remote Australia outside of those areas defined for spectrum licensing. The arrangements were developed in response to requests from telecommunications providers for increased capacity in these areas, as well as to provide increased capacity for dual-band international roaming.

1900–1920 & 2010–2025 MHz

In February 2005 the former ACA made fixed point-to-multipoint licences available for BWA services in the 1900–1920 MHz band in regional and remote areas, and in the 2010–2025 MHz band in remote areas.

The 1900-1920 MHz band is currently subject to spectrum licensing arrangements in metropolitan areas and apparatus licences are not available in these areas.

In 2006, the ACMA created arrangements for spectrum licensing in the 2010-2025 MHz band in metropolitan and regional areas. No licences were issued and the band has since reverted back to apparatus licensing Australia-wide. However, the band is currently subject to embargo 38 which restricts any new assignments being made Australia-wide while future planning options are considered.

Licences in the 1900-1920 MHz and 2010-2025 MHz bands were originally subject to rollout obligations and spectrum acquisition limitations to encourage deployment of services, prevent spectrum hoarding and promote competition. As demand for the band has diminished over time, these requirements have been removed.

Information on frequency coordination, licensing procedures and permitted deployment areas for apparatus-licensed BWA services in these bands is available in RALI FX19. The frequency band plan for these bands is also available.

In March 2010, the ACMA changed the allocation process in the 1900-1920 MHz band to an administrative or over the counter process. Previously allocation was performed using a price-based allocation process as demand exceeded supply in many areas.

2.1 & 2.3 GHz

In 1994 and 1995 two price-based allocations were conducted for five-year MDS apparatus licences in the bands 2076–2110 MHz and 2302–2400 MHz. In total, 209 licences were issued for over $100 million. These licences were able to be used for transmitting text, graphics, still pictures, sound, non-entertainment video, and entertainment video including subscription television. The successful bidders mainly used the licences to provide a pay TV service.

In 2000, the ACA converted the MDS apparatus licences in the band 2302–2400 MHz to 15-year spectrum licences. The spectrum licences may be used for any purposes provided transmissions comply with the technical framework, which will allow a wider variety of uses than the former MDS licences. The technical framework is currently being revised and will be made available once finalised.

The MDS licences in the band 2076–2110 MHz have expired. The band is now used for fixed services. More information on the allocation of MDS licences is available. The 2.1 GHz Band Plan is available.

 

3.4 GHz

In October 2000 the former ACA auctioned spectrum licences in the 3.4 GHz band (3425–3492.5 MHz and 3542.5–3575 MHz). The three successful bidders raised over $112 million. The licences are currently being used to provide FWA and BWA services in capital cities and major regional centres. More information on the auction is available.

In 2004 the former ACA allocated residual spectrum in the 3.4 GHz band after dropping the price of the spectrum licences. The reduced prices reflected the shorter terms remaining on the licences and changes in market conditions.

Fixed point to multipoint licences are also available in the 3.4 GHz band in some regional areas. These licences could be used to provide BWA. Information on frequency coordination and licensing procedures can be found in RALI FX14.

5.8 GHz

In December 2004 the former ACA put in place arrangements to allow the issue of fixed point to point licences in the 5.8 GHz band (5725–5825 MHz). This licensing option can be used to support BWA services in regional and remote areas, particularly in the provision of backhaul links.

27 GHz

In November 2000 the former ACA auctioned spectrum licences suitable for local multipoint distribution systems (LMDS) in the 27 GHz band (26.5–27.5 GHz). The auction raised $37.6 million; more information on the auction is available.

28 & 31 GHz

In 1999 the former ACA auctioned spectrum licences in the 28 and 31 GHz bands (27.5–28.35 GHz and 31–31.3 GHz). The licences were marketed as being suitable for LMDS. The auction raised over $66 million; more information on the auction is available.

Recent projects

PTS licences in the 2 GHz band in regional and remote areas of Australia

The ACMA has called for applications for public mobile telecommunications services in the 2 GHz band in regional and remote areas of Australia.

Read details on the application process.

Release of the 2 GHz band to PTS in regional and remote areas of Australia

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has finalised arrangements to make further spectrum in the 2 GHz band available for mobile telecommunications services in regional and remote areas of Australia.

Frequency assigning arrangements developed to support this process are contained in RALI MS33.

Background

In response to interest from telecommunications providers seeking access to spectrum in the paired frequency bands 1920-1980 MHz (the 2 GHz band) in regional and remote areas of Australia, the ACMA released the discussion paper The allocation of Public Telecommunications Service (PTS) apparatus licences in the 2 GHz band (IFC 25/2009).

The Discussion Paper outlined the proposed licensing and technical coordination arrangements for the issue of PTS licences in the 2 GHz band; and provided an explanation for the proposed amendments for the subordinate legislative instruments.

The ACMA requested comment on the following proposed amendments to related subordinate legislative instruments:

Copies of the Discussion Paper are available in PDF (529 kb) or Word (647 kb) formats.

The public consultation period for the discussion paper closed on 23 November 2009, and submissions were received from Optus and Telstra.

Review of 2.5 GHz band, and long-term arrangements for ENG

This work is part of the WAS strategy announced in October 2008.

The ACMA will re-plan the 2.5 GHz band to allow part of the band to move to a new use such as wireless access services and part to be retained by the current licensees – the free-to-air commercial broadcasters and the ABC – for electronic news gathering.

The comment period for the discussion paper – Review of the 2.5 GHz band and long term arrangements for ENG – closed on 12 March 2010.

The ACMA received 42 submissions during the consultation period, one was classified Commercial-in-Confidence. Submissions and the discussion paper can be viewed at IFC 01/2010.

The media release is available at MR7/2010 The ACMA releases discussion paper on review of the 2.5 GHz band.

The ACMA reviewed the submissions to the discussion paper and has released a Response to Submission paper PDF (330 kB) or Word (430 kB). The purpose of this paper is to:

  1. provide a summary of the issues raised in submissions to the discussion paper

  2. provide the ACMA’s preliminary response to these issues

  3. provide an outline of the processes the ACMA will undertake during the Implementation Phase.

The media release is available at MR 132/2010 ACMA to re-plan part of the 2.5GHz band and retain capacity for electronic news gathering.

BackgroundOn 14 October 2008, the ACMA announced its intention to review the arrangements for the 2.5 GHz band (2500-2690 MHz), to ensure that the band can be planned and allocated to permit maximisation of the overall benefit derived from that spectrum.

This announcement coincided with the release of the paper Strategies for Wireless Access Services: Consultation Outcomes (PDF [371 kB]). This paper provided a summary of submissions to the Strategies for Wireless Access Services: Spectrum Access Options (PDF [736 kB]) paper, as well as presenting the outcomes of the consultation process.

Release of the 3.6 GHz band: Final arrangements and other relevant information

The ACMA has finalised arrangements for the release of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz (3575-3700 MHz) band for WAS in regional and remote areas of Australia.

Details on the allocation process and relevant updates, applicable technical and legislative documentation are available on the 3.6 GHz Band Release page.

Release of the 3.6 GHz band in regional and remote areas of Australia

The comment period for the discussion paper Release of the 3.6 GHz band for wireless access services (WAS) closed on 15 May 2009. The ACMA received twenty-one submissions.

The ACMA reviewed the submissions to this discussion paper and released a Response to Submissions Paper. The purpose of this paper is to:

  1. provide a summary of the information and issues raised in submissions to the discussion paper

  2. provide the ACMA’s response to these issues

  3. indicate the ACMA’s preferred policy direction and regulatory arrangements for the release of the 3.6 GHz band.

The policy direction outlined in this paper is informed by analysis of the Principles for Spectrum Management.

BackgroundOn 14 October 2008, the ACMA announced its intention to allow the use of the 3.6 GHz band (3575-3700 MHz) for the deployment of wireless access services in regional and remote areas of Australia. This band is intended to provide a short to medium term solution for the demand for broadband wireless access (BWA) services in these areas (MR 124/2008). This announcement coincided with the release of the paper Strategies for Wireless Access Services: Consultation Outcomes (PDF [371 kB]). This paper provided a summary of submissions to the Strategies for Wireless Access Services: Spectrum Access Options (PDF [736 kB]) paper, as well as presenting the outcomes of the consultation process.

A presentation on the ACMA’s announcement and the paper Strategies for Wireless Access Services: Consultation Outcomes (PDF [371 kB]) was also given at the ACMA's Spectrum Tune-Up conference on 15 October 2008.

On 1 April 2009 the ACMA released a discussion paper entitled Release of the 3.6 GHz band for wireless access services (WAS). This paper was released in order to provide context and frame discussion for the ACMA and its stakeholders regarding the proposed release of the frequency range 3575-3700 MHz (the 3.6 GHz band) for WAS in regional and remote areas of Australia.

 

This discussion paper:

  1. provides the background on the release of the 3.6 GHz band and information on incumbency issues in the band

  2. outlines the technical issues under consideration to ensure appropriate, technology flexible, coordination criteria are developed for the introduction of WAS

  3. outlines the regulatory policy and other issues associated with the release of the 3.6 GHz band, such as licensing arrangements and allocation mechanisms.

In order for the ACMA to make the 3.6 GHz band available for allocation in regional and remote areas of Australia, amendments to the following legislative instruments and technical document are proposed:

The discussion paper is available in PDF (970 kB) or Word (2.1 MB).

Comments for this discussion paper and the proposed amendments to the legislative instruments and technical document listed closed on 15 May 2009.

Strategies for wireless access services

Responses to the discussion paper Strategies for Wireless Access Services: Spectrum Access Options (PDF [736 kB]) provided the ACMA with a large amount of information to consider. Since comments on the paper closed, the ACMA has analysed this information in light of continuing Australian and international developments in relation to WAS.

The ACMA has now completed reviewing submissions to the discussion paper and released the paper Strategies for Wireless Access Services: Consultation Outcomes (PDF [371 kB]). This paper gives a summary of submissions to the Strategies for Wireless Access Services: Spectrum Access Options paper, presents the outcomes of the consultation process and provides information on the additional work that the ACMA will undertake to implement its WAS strategy.

 

The key outcomes of the public consultation are:

  1. to develop an early solution for BWA users in regional areas using spectrum in the 3.6 GHz (3575–3700 MHz) band, acknowledging that there will be a need to appropriately address the interests of incumbent users of that band

  2. to review the planning and licensing arrangements for spectrum in the 2.5 GHz (2500–2690 MHz) band

  3. in the longer term to await the outcomes from Government decisions about spectrum currently designated for broadcasting services in the 520-820 MHz bands.

BackgroundOn 6 February 2006 the ACMA released the discussion paper Strategies for Wireless Access Services (PDF [736 kB]). The purpose of the paper was to stimulate discussion and solicit information from stakeholders that will allow the ACMA to gauge the demand for future WAS and the associated spectrum support requirements.

On 6 and 7 March the ACMA hosted the Wireless Spectrum Strategies 2006 seminar to provide stakeholders with further opportunity to discuss the issues in the paper.

The ACMA received forty-seven submissions to the discussion paper.

In December 2006, the ACMA released the discussion paper Strategies for Wireless Access Services: Spectrum Access Options (PDF [736 kB]) for public comment. The purpose of the paper, was to:

  1. give a brief overview of demand for wireless access services (WAS) and the estimated future spectrum required to support it

  2. provide a brief summary of the responses received to the discussion paper released in February

  3. identify bands that the ACMA believes are currently the most suitable candidates for WAS in the short, medium and long term

  4. discuss and seek detailed comments on the identified bands, including some high-level options for band segmentation and licensing.

A total of 166 submissions were received.

A presentation on the discussion paper was given at ACMA's RadComms 2006 conference on 11-12 December 2006.

 

Broadband wireless access services in the 1785-1805 MHz band

In December 2006, the ACMA released the discussion paper Strategies for Wireless Access Services: 1785-1805 MHz (PDF [1.6 MB]) for public comment. It followed on from the discussion paper Strategies for Wireless Access Services: Spectrum Access Options (PDF [736 kB]), released in December 2006.

The paper invited comments on proposals for the apparatus licensing of broadband wireless access (BWA) services in regional areas in the 1785 1795 MHz band and remote areas in the 1785-1805 MHz band. Proposals included:

  1. the price-based allocation of licences to resolve competing applications

  2. rollout obligations that apply to BWA licences in the 1900 1920 MHz band be imposed on BWA licences in the 1785-1805 MHz band to ensure the delivery of services in a reasonable timeframe

  3. equal access to the 1785-1805 MHz band for BWA services and 1.8 GHz fixed point-to-point links (i.e. coordination of fixed links and BWA services)

  4. technical limitations to support the uncoordinated operation of BWA services and 1.8 GHz spectrum-licensed services operating in the adjacent bands.

Eight submissions were received, mainly from incumbent users concerned with interference to their services. Although some concern was expressed, incumbents were generally accepting of the arrangements proposed for the band. However, there was a lack of significant support from potential users and, as such, no further work has been undertaken on the release of this band.

BackgroundThe spectrum planning discussion paper Rationale for Proposed 1785-1805 MHz BWA Technical Framework (PDF [1.9 MB]) is also available.

WAS deployment in class-licensed bands

Spectrum is available for the provision of WAS in the 900 MHz, 2.4, 5.2 and 5.8 GHz bands under a class licensing arrangement. The conditions for operating devices in these bands are contained in the Radiocommunications (Low Interference Potential Devices) Class Licence 2015 (the LIPD class licence). You can also read more on the LIPD class licence.

The ACMA has produced a list of frequently asked questions about the operation of RLANs in the 2.4 GHz band.

Enquiries about radiocommunications licensing, including class licensing, may be sent to the Radiocommunications Licensing and Telecommunications Deployment Section.

Other considerations for WAS providers

Please note that this information is intended as a guide only. For this reason, the information contained herein should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases.

Apparatus licensing

Generally speaking, all radiocommunications transmitters must be licensed. If you are a WAS provider who is not operating under the LIPD class licence or a spectrum licence, then you will probably need to take out an apparatus licence.

Applications for an apparatus licence may be made to the ACMA's Licence Allocations and Information Section. Applicants should complete the ACMA's form Application for Apparatus Licence(s) (PDF [179 kB]). If frequency assignments are required with the licence, you should also submit the form Additional Station Information(PDF [178 kB]).

If you have enquiries about apparatus licensing and fees, contact the Radiocommunications Licensing and Telecommunications Deployment Section.

Carrier licensing

As a WAS provider, you may be required to hold a carrier licence.

Under the Telecommunications Act 1997, the owner of a network unit (cable or wireless facility) which is used to supply a carriage service (e.g telephony or internet) must hold a carrier licence. However, there is a provision for another party to take on the responsibilities of a carrier for the network unit - this is referred to as a ‘nominated carrier declaration’.

In September 2002 a Ministerial determination was made that exempts RLANs that are used to supply carriage services to customers where the RLAN is located in the same place as the customers. The aim of the determination was to preserve technological neutrality of the Telecommunications Act 1997. The determination removed the anomaly that a wireless network on a single premise required a carrier licence, even though a cable network does not. An explanatory statement for the determination is also available.

 

  1. More information about carrier licensing.

Enquiries about carrier licensing can be sent to Carrier Licensing.

Network infrastructure code

The industry code Mobile phone base station deployment (C564:2011) may also apply to WAS providers. The code applies to licensed carriers who are installing, intending to install, operating or contracting or arranging for the installation of fixed radiocommunications infrastructure used, intended to be used, or capable of being used to supply public mobile telecommunications services.

The code outlines carriers' responsibilities in the design, installation and operation of radiocommunications infrastructure. The aim of the code is to ensure that communities and local councils are informed about infrastructure such as mobile phone towers being placed in their area. The code also requires carriers to provide information to the public on request about the radiofrequency characteristics of sites.

More information about the code is available from the Mobile phone base station deployment code.

Electromagnetic energy (EME) assessment of transmitters

If your WAS network is operated under apparatus licensing, your network transmitters may need to be assessed against EME requirements.

Parts 3 and 4 of the Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Apparatus Licence) Determination 2003 set out EME licence conditions. Emissions from a transmitter must not exceed the reference levels for the general public exposure category of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) standard at places accessible to a member of the general public.

Examples of places accessible to a member of the general public include private residences, public parks and some building rooftops.
More information on EME regulatory arrangements.

 

Last updated: 07 September 2017