- Proposal evaluation
- Spectrum availability
- What information should be provided
- Equipment testing arrangements
- Further information
This paper provides advice on how the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) handles proposals to operate radiocommunications equipment that are inconsistent with Australia's arrangements for managing the radiofrequency spectrum.
The ACMA is responsible for facilitating access to, and use of, the radiofrequency spectrum. Access to the radiofrequency spectrum is intended to:
- promote economic efficiency;
- encourage technological change;
- expand freedom of choice;
- accelerate economic development; and
- benefit the general community.
To effectively manage the radiofrequency spectrum, the ACMA's regulatory arrangements include an equipment standards and compliance framework and a conditional radiocommunications licensing system. The operation of radiocommunications equipment that complies fully with these regulatory arrangements is routinely authorised under a Spectrum Licence, Apparatus Licence or Class Licence.
However, in discharging the responsibility to facilitate access to the spectrum, the ACMA also considers, on a case by case basis, proposals for the use of the radiofrequency spectrum that are inconsistent with existing regulatory arrangements.
Radiocommunications equipment may be inconsistent with Australian regulatory arrangements for a number for reasons.
The Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan (ARSP), separates the radiofrequency spectrum into a number of frequency bands and specifies the general purposes for which the bands may be used. In some parts of the spectrum, frequency band plans specify the purposes for which bands may be used.
Allocations for use of the radiofrequency spectrum in Australia, and identified in the ARSP, are generally aligned with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) requirements for Region 3 (broadly, South and South East Asia, Australasia, Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific). While the ITU attempts to align allocations of radiofrequency spectrum between the three Regions, there are significant differences in allocations among Region 1 (Russia, Europe and Africa), Region 2 (Americas) and Region 3.
Because of this, radiocommunications equipment developed for use in other Regions, may be designed to operate on frequencies that are inconsistent with the ARSP or the relevant frequency band plan. It may not be possible for such equipment to operate in Australia without causing interference to other equipment that is operating in accordance with regulatory arrangements.
The Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act) which provides the legislative basis for the regulatory arrangements administered by the ACMA, generally prohibits licensing of radiocommunications equipment that is inconsistent with the ARSP or band plans.
In addition to requiring compliance with the ARSP and any applicable band plan, most radiocommunications equipment is subject to mandatory equipment standards. Licensing policies and conditions also regulate the use of radiocommunications equipment.
In the context of facilitating access to, and use of, the radiofrequency spectrum, consideration of a new proposal will take into account the requirements of:
- the Act;
- the ARSP;
- any relevant band plan;
- other spectrum planning arrangements;
- existing licensing policy; and
- the equipment's potential impact on the operation of other radiocommunications services.
During the consideration of a proposal relating to the use of the spectrum, technical performance requirements for the use of the equipment will be determined. These form the basis for any necessary practical assessment of the equipment's performance. Under the Act, if the ACMA thinks it necessary, it may, by written notice given to the applicant for a transmitter licence or a receiver licence, request the applicant to submit the device for testing. In such circumstances, testing would be undertaken by the ACMA, or by a person authorised by the ACMA.
Policy evaluation of a new radiocommunications proposal takes time. Detailed technical evaluation of equipment also takes time. It is important, therefore, that importers and potential operators should provide relevant information to the ACMA well in advance of launch dates or expected start dates.
The availability of spectrum for the purposes of licensing is a separate issue from in-principle approval for the proposal and equipment testing. While equipment may be approved for use in Australia, spectrum may not always be available at a particular location.
To enable a proper policy evaluation of the product and its intended use, each proposal should be accompanied by a technical and operational description of the system, as outlined below:
- Preferred frequency band(s) of operation;
- Transmitter/receiver spacing;
- frequency stability; and
- spurious emission levels;
- Type of modulation;
- data rate (if applicable);
- duty cycle of emissions; and
- emission bandwidth, or emission designator;
- Type of antenna;
- bandwidth; and
- spurious emission levels.
- Comprehensive system operation description, including:
- typical communication distance;
- geographic area of planned use; and
- nature and purpose of the equipment.
- Anticipated commercial/target market;
- Any other information necessary to clarify and support the proposal; and
- Realistic deadlines for decisions.
All information, relating to proposals put to the ACMA, are treated as 'commercial in confidence', and will not be disclosed to any third party, without the written permission of the supplier of the equipment being assessed, unless required by law.
Radiocommunications equipment used in Australia is subject to various performance requirements. These include:
- mandatory ACMA standards;
- equipment compliance requirements;
- these arrangements are being phased out as relevant ACMA standards are introduced;
- overseas equipment performance arrangements; and
- arrangements specified in ACMA class licences.
Testing radiocommunications equipment falling within the scope of any of the above arrangements is covered in the ACMA's policy information paper entitled Testing Radiocommunications Devices Against ACMA Equipment Performance Requirements.
Testing radiocommunications equipment that does not fall within the scope of any of the above arrangements is covered in the ACMA's policy information paper Testing Radiocommunications Devices where No Equipment Performance Requirements are Specified (Spectrum Impact Assessments).
The ACMA operates a Radiocommunications Compliance Laboratory in Melbourne. This laboratory is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) and is equipped to undertake both tests against known performance requirements and spectrum impact assessment testing.
While necessary testing of equipment against particular standards must be undertaken by any recognised accredited laboratory, assessment of radiocommunications equipment that does not fall within the scope of an ACMA standard can only be assessed by the ACMA's Radiocommunications Compliance Laboratory.
If you require an equipment assessment to be conducted by the ACMA's Laboratory, you should complete the ACMA's Application for Radiocommunications Compliance Testing (R200) form, and provide a (representative) sample of the equipment, ready to be tested.
The ACMA charges fees for assessing equipment and these fees include the GST.
If you have any additional queries about proposals outside existing licensing policy, please contact Radiocommunications Licensing and Telecommunications Deployment, ACMA, Canberra, or, in the case of equipment testing, the ACMA Radiocommunications Compliance Laboratory in Melbourne on +61 3 9963 6800.
The ACMA's website also provides information about equipment standards.