- What is an LPON service?
- What are the limitations on LPON services?
- How do I obtain an LPON transmitter licence
- Definition of residential and non-residential areas
LPON services, as the name suggests, cater for the provision of niche radio broadcasting services to a limited area of reception. The types of programming provided by LPON services include racing and tourist information services, ethnic broadcasting, information services, niche musical services and religious programming. LPON services operate on a very low power and their range is much more limited than other radio broadcasting services. This may mean that, in some instances, an LPON service may only be able to be received in a portion of its potential coverage area. This reality is reflected in the cost of obtaining an LPON licence.
The ACMA's planning proceeds on the basis 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 imposes penalties of up to $200,000.
As the name suggests, an LPON service must fit the definition of open narrowcasting. Applicants for a new LPON licence may wish to obtain a Section 21 opinion from the ACMA, before purchasing an LPON transmitter licence, about whether their proposed service is categorised as narrowcasting.
Where a licensee wishes to provide a networked open narrowcasting service (defined as two or more HPONs or LPONs (in any combination) providing substantially the same programming), the licensee must give the ACMA a statement, in an approved form, explaining how reception of their service is limited in a way described in paragraph 18(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (which sets out the criteria for open narrowcasting services). This statement is required not later than 30 days after the service is first provided. For more information, refer to the Broadcasting Services (Additional Conditions - Open Narrowcasting Radio Services) Notice 2002.
Where non-compliance with licence conditions occurs, the ACMA may take regulatory action under the Radiocommunications Act 1992. The ACMA has adopted a graduated regulatory approach. Regulatory action can include warning notices, fines, suspension or cancellation of the licence, or prosecution.
For more information on open and subscription narrowcasting radio services, please refer also to our guidelines on Narrowcasting for Radio.
The reception of LPON services is to be 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.
The availability of LPON services is limited to the FM frequencies centred on 87.6 MHz, 87.8 MHz and 88.0 MHz.
There is over 60 licensed LPON services (refer link below), operating between 88.1 MHz and 108.0 MHz of the broadcasting services bands (BSB). These services were planned several years ago by the former Australian Broadcasting Authority and it is unlikely that any more LPON licences will be made available in the BSB.
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:
- The availability of spectrum is made on a case by case basis;
- The ACMA may consider moving an existing LPON to an alternative frequency to make way for radio services planned in a LAP; and
- The ACMA is not obliged to find replacement spectrum for LPON licences.
In some areas, the availability of LPON frequencies may be restricted because of the need to protect existing television services operating on Channel 3 or existing FM radio services operating on 88.1 MHz and 88.3 MHz. The tables in Schedule One define the exclusion zones for LPON services to protect these television and radio services. The table in Schedule Two defines the existing LPON services that are permitted to operate within the defined exclusion zones.
|Schedule One (PDF, 76 kb)||9 February 2006|
|Schedule Two (PDF, 463 kb)||28 March 2012|
Should the licence for an LPON transmitter listed in Schedule 2 be cancelled due to contravention of licence conditions, no new licences will be allocated at that site.
The exclusion zone boundaries in Schedule One 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).
As the name suggests, LPON services operate on very low power outputs. The operating power for LPON services is limited to a maximum of 1 watt transmitter power in residential areas and 10 watts 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, licensees will be expected to reduce the transmitter power 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.
LPON services do not have a guarantee against interference from mainstream broadcasting services planned in a LAP, wherever located. On the other hand, within its licence area, a mainstream broadcasting service is protected against interference from LPON services.
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, for example, to plan new mainstream broadcasting services or to vary the conditions of existing mainstream broadcasting services, affected LPON spectrum may have to be resumed (without compensation), and there is no obligation to find replacement spectrum.
In order to minimise interference between LPON services using the same and adjacent frequency, LPON services are restricted to the minimum separation distance requirements in the following table:
|LPON Carrier Frequency Separation (kHz)||Required Protection Ratio in decibels (dB)||Separation Distance between 1 W LPON transmitters in kilometres (km)||Separation Distance between 10 W LPON transmitters (km)||Separation Distance between 1 W and 10 W LPON transmitters (km)|
On 22 December 2000, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts provided the Authority 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, LPON licensees are required to commence operation within six months of allocation of the licence, continue to provide a service with reasonable regularity and maintain records of the commencement, hours of operation and provision of a service under the 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. An LPON licensee must commence a service within six months of being issued a transmitter licence and provide the service with reasonable regularity, unless there are valid reasons for not doing so. The ACMA may cancel a transmitter licence if this condition is not met.
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, as far as possible, to provide interference free reception between LPON services, but not between an LPON service and a mainstream broadcasting service planned in a LAP.
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.
It is important to note that where there is only one applicant, the ACMA will offer the applicant 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 a licence.
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 can be found 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).