Over the counter allocations can refer to two different means by which the ACMA can allocate licences for spectrum; either where:
- an applicant applies directly to the ACMA for a licence that is issued for an issue charge and annual licence fee.
- the ACMA negotiates directly with applicants for licences on the basis of a predetermined price based on an assessment of the market value of the spectrum.
Applicant applies directly to the ACMA for a licence
This situation normally applies to apparatus licences, which authorise specific devices to use certain frequencies for specific purposes, generally from identified sites. These licences involve payment of annual apparatus licence fees and can be issued for up to 5 years. Apparatus licences are allocated under band plans based on the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan (PDF, 636kb) and on ITU allocations. Allocating by apparatus licence is the preferred mechanism when the supply of spectrum exceeds demand. In certain circumstances, high demand spectrum that is apparatus licensed may be allocated by auction.
To obtain an apparatus licence, applicants must submit a completed Application for apparatus licence(s) (R057), directly or via an accredited person to any ACMA office. If frequency assignments are required with this licence, also complete and submit the ACMA form Additional station information (R077) (PDF, 62 kb). Alternatively, frequency assignment may be performed by an accredited person, who will provide a frequency assignment certificate for submission to the ACMA with the licence application.
The ACMA negotiates directly on the basis of a predetermined price
This normally relates to spectrum licences, which allow licensees to operate any device within the frequency and geographic boundaries of the licence for a period of up to 15 years under conditions set by a technical framework. The ACMA uses spectrum licences to allocate spectrum in bands where demand greatly exceeds supply, nearly always by sale at auction. In rare cases, where demand is unexpectedly limited, or where spectrum lots have failed to sell at auction, or where there is a single applicant, the ACMA may negotiate directly to sell the licence at a predetermined price, based on an assessment of the market value of the spectrum.