- Kinds of accreditation
- Accreditation and apparatus licensing
- Accreditation and spectrum licensing
- Deed of Indemnity
Section 263 of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act) provides for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to accredit persons to perform certain activities related to the use of the radiofrequency spectrum. Such activities include frequency coordination and emission level management.
This document provides general information on the operation of the accreditation scheme. Information on how to seek accreditation and the circumstances under which accreditation may be withdrawn is contained in the document Applying for accreditation to issue frequency assignment and interference impact certificates.
The Radiocommunications (Accreditation - Prescribed Certificates) - Principles 2003 is a legal instrument which defines the principles that govern the accreditation process and specifies the matters for which accreditation may occur.
The ACMA currently accredits persons to issue two kinds of certificates:
- frequency assignment certificates (FACs) under section 100(4A) of the Act, relating to the operation of radiocommunications transmitters and receivers covered under apparatus licensing arrangements; and
- interference impact certificates (IICs) under section 145(3) of the Act, relating to the operation of radiocommunications transmitters in spectrum subject to spectrum licensing.
The information below sets out the processes and obligations that apply to accredited persons in relation to carrying out frequency assignment work for apparatus licence applications submitted with an FAC.
The frequency assignment work required for the issue of an apparatus licence may be performed by the ACMA or by an accredited person. An accredited person doing this work will issue an FAC, which then accompanies a client's licence application. If desired, the ACMA can 'hold' a frequency assigned by an accredited person for ten working days until an application is submitted (see section below for further information regarding the 'hold' policy for assigned frequencies). By issuing an FAC, the accredited person is certifying that a device operating at a particular site, on a given carrier frequency within specific technical parameters, will satisfy any conditions that are required to be satisfied, in relation to the issue of such a certificate, under a determination made under section 266A of the Act. See Part 2 of the Radiocommunications (Frequency Assignment Certificates) Determination 2003.
Accredited persons have the option of submitting FACs in paper format or by using the Online Submission System. For paper FACs, ACMA staff enter the details on the FAC into the spectrum management database and issue the licence. As the frequency assignment work has been performed by the accredited person, the amount of work undertaken by the ACMA is minimised, and so the administrative component of the licence fee is reduced.
The Online System allows accredited persons to electronically lodge FACs with the ACMA. After lodgement, FACs are processed electronically and spectrum accesses created in the spectrum management database. The spectrum accesses may be for new apparatus licence applications or requests to vary apparatus licence conditions. This saves ACMA staff from undertaking the data input and results in a further reduction of the administrative component of the licence fee.
The relevant charges that apply to paper and online submitted FACs can be found in the Apparatus Licence Fee Schedule.
Other than verifying the details of new sites, the ACMA does not generally question the information on FACs. However, there is an audit program in place to ensure that the standard of assignment work being performed by accredited persons is such as to maintain the integrity of the spectrum management database.
Where the assignment requires international coordination, this will be undertaken by the ACMA and charged for on a cost recovery basis at the hourly rate specified in the Apparatus Licence Fee Schedule. Extra charges will also be incurred where the ACMA is requested by the accredited person to do any work additional to the normal licence issue process.
Important information regarding the 'hold' policy for assigned frequencies
The policy of 'holding' a frequency for up to 10 working days following the lodgement of an FAC is simply intended to assist with frequency coordination. A held frequency is not protected from subsequent applications on form Application for apparatus licence(s) (R057). Should a validly completed application be received by the ACMA before the 10 day period has expired, that application would take precedence over the FAC and the frequency that has been 'held'.
Applications for apparatus licences are made under section 99 of the Act, and should be made using the approved form Application for apparatus licence(s) (R057).
While the FACs (Frequency assignment certificate (RF110)) are referred to in section 100(4A) of the Act, they do not constitute an application under section 99. The FAC is not an approved application form. Rather, section 100(4A) merely permits ACMA to take the FAC into account when deciding whether to issue an apparatus licence.
Experience has proven that the potential for competing assignments is very low. However, a practical way to secure a particular frequency is to lodge the Application for apparatus licence(s) (R057) application at the same time as the FAC. To assist in this process, the declaration on form Application for apparatus licence(s) (R057) allows an agent, such as an accredited person, to sign on behalf of the applicant.
Any questions regarding the application process may be directed to Radiocommunications Licensing and Telecommunications Deployment.
While the ACMA does not prescribe the methodology to be used by an accredited person in making assignments, it does specify the interference management criteria and spectrum management objectives that must be met for assignments in various bands. These criteria and objectives are contained in Policy Information Papers (PIPs), Radiocommunications Assignment and Licensing Instructions (RALIs), Business Operating Procedures (BOPs) and Advisory Guidelines. In making assignments, accredited persons are also expected to use spectrum access data of a currency appropriate to the frequency band and geographic area of the assignment. ACMA's daily update service of its Register of Radiocommunications Licences (see Resources) is an important tool that enables an accredited person to work with the latest data.
Where documented criteria for a frequency band or service do not exist in the form of a PIP, RALI, BOP or Advisory Guideline, the accredited person is required to provide the ACMA with a supplementary statement when the FAC is issued. The statement must set out the interference management criteria used for the frequency assignment, and the methodology adopted in meeting those criteria.
The legal requirements of an accredited person when issuing FACs are contained in the Radiocommunications (Frequency Assignment Certificates) Determination 2003. This includes provisions that:
- an assignment must not be made that is inconsistent with the Act, the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan, a legislated band plan, a PIP, RALI, BOP or Advisory Guidelines;
- where documented criteria for a frequency band do not exist in the form of a PIP, RALI, BOP or Advisory Guideline, an assignment must have regard to the ITU Radio Regulations and ITU-R Recommendations;
- an accredited person must not issue a certificate unless he/she reasonably believes that the proposed device, when operated in accordance with the characteristics specified in the certificate, would normally be apparatus licensed by the ACMA.
For information about obtaining spectrum access data and documentation, see Resources for Accredited Persons.
The information below sets out the processes and obligations that apply to accredited persons in relation to the registration of devices under a spectrum licence.
For the operation of a device under a spectrum licence to be authorised, the device must be registered with the ACMA, unless it is specifically exempted. Before registration, each device is usually assessed under a Radiocommunications (Unacceptable Levels of Interference) Determination made under s.145(3) of the Act for the relevant frequency band release. These determinations set out exact procedures to be followed in making such assessments. Assessments are carried out by accredited persons, who issue an Interference Impact Certificate (IIC) to accompany a client's application to register a device.
By issuing an IIC, the accredited person is certifying that significant levels of emission radiated from a device operating at a particular site, on a given carrier frequency, and within specific technical parameters, are contained within the spectrum licence under which it operates and are contained in a manner that is in accordance with the design of the technical framework established for that band release.
The ACMA staff enter the device details into the Register of Radiocommunications Licences and issue either a device registration number or a list of errors that prevented registration. As the interference impact assessment has been performed by the accredited person, the amount of work undertaken by the ACMA is minimised, and so the administrative charge for device registration is reduced. Unlike FACs, all IICs are subjected to a series of simple automated checks at the point of input.
Receivers do not have to be registered, however, registration of receivers for interference management purposes may be to the advantage of the licensee because the ACMA settles interference on a first-in-time priority basis for interference occurring across the frequency boundaries of spectrum licences. Registration of a receiver does not require an IIC.
When spectrum licences are divided and traded, the devices operating under the original licence must be allocated to each part of the licence before the trade is registered. Before the trade, all the devices will be set to a status of either:
- Failed Guard Band;
- Failed Guard Area;
- Failed IIC (Effective Occupied Bandwidth outside the Frequency Band of the Licence); or
- Confirm agreement to share spectrum with adjacent licensees.
An accredited person will be required to, where necessary, issue new IICs or offer new opinions regarding operation of the devices under the new spectrum licences.
When issuing an IIC, an accredited person must ensure that a device meets the requirements of the Radiocommunications (Unacceptable Levels of Interference) Determination relevant to the band in question. The validity of an IIC depends entirely on compliance with the Determination.
Where an IIC cannot be issued, because a proposed device does not meet the requirements of the relevant determination, it may still be possible to register the device, if the licensee provides appropriate guard-bands and/or guard-distances and/or can obtain the agreement of all potentially affected licensees.
For the purposes of registering a device without an IIC, an accredited person may be required to provide proof about whether all licensees whose services may be affected by the operation of a specified device have agreed that the device may be operated in that way.
Devices may also be registered without an IIC if an accredited person provides the ACMA with advice that sufficient guard space will be maintained for the management of interference caused by the device within the meaning of the Radiocommunications Advisory Guidelines (Registration of Devices under Spectrum Licences without an Interference Impact Certificate) 1998.
In addition to the Radiocommunications (Unacceptable Levels of Interference) Determinations, advisory guidelines are issued by the ACMA under s 262 of the Act. The Advisory Guidelines usually provide a compatibility requirement for specific devices. The Advisory Guidelines do not usually define a procedure for achieving the compatibility criteria.
Advisory Guidelines do not need to be taken into account when issuing an IIC, however, it is strongly recommended that they be considered, as the guidelines may be expected to form the basis for any interference settlement undertaken by the ACMA.
A person, unless that person is employed by a Commonwealth government agency subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act), may only issue an FAC or IIC if an approved Deed of Indemnity has been provided by the accredited person. The Deed of Indemnity must either have been given by the government body in which the accredited person serves if the FAC/IIC is to be issued in the course of government service, or have been given by the accredited person personally if the FAC/IIC is to be issued otherwise than in the course of government service.
Note: For information about Deeds of Indemnity, see sections 6 and 7 of the Radiocommunications (Accreditation - Prescribed Certificates) - Principles 2003.