Apparatus licensing system | ACMA

Apparatus licensing system

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) is responsible for licensing radiocommunications devices in Australia.

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Features of the apparatus licensing regime

The apparatus licensing system permits:

  1. broad apparatus licence categories within which different radiocommunications applications are separately identified as individual licence options

  2. an equitable and transparent approach to apparatus licence fees

  3. apparatus licence terms of up to five years, in conjunction with a licensing system which gives payment options for licence fees

  4. the option, for apparatus licensees who seek terms for longer than one year, of paying the total amount of the licence fee at the time the licence is issued or by annual instalments

  5. transfers of apparatus licences between parties

  6. licence fee exemptions and concessions to individuals and organisations providing emergency or safety of human life functions.

Policy on apparatus licence tenure

The policy outlining the ACMA’s approach for the renewal of apparatus licences is available in Word or PDF formats.

Licence types and licensing options

Licence types and their related licensing options are listed in Table 1. To bring a consistent approach to spectrum management, the licence types are based on definitions in the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan drawn from definitions used by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Licence types are defined in the Radiocommunications (Specified Radiocommunications Receivers and Types of Transmitter Licences and Receiver Licences) Determination 2014.  Terms used in this determination are defined in the Radiocommunications (Interpretation) Determination 2015 and the Radiocommunications Regulations 1993.

Table 1 - Licence types and licensing options

Licence types

Licensing options under the apparatus licence types

Transmitter licences

1. Aeronautical

Aeronautical assigned system

2. Aircraft

Aircraft assigned

3. Amateur

Advanced; Standard; Foundation; Amateur beacon; Amateur repeater

4. Broadcasting

Broadcast service station; HF domestic service station; HF overseas service station; HF overseas (IBL) service station; Narrowband area service station; Narrowcasting service station (including low power open narrowcasting (LPON))

5. Datacasting


6. Defence


7. Earth

Fixed earth Mobile earth

8. Fixed

Point to point; Point to point (5.8 GHz band); Point to point (self-coordinated) stations; 900 MHz studio to transmitter link; Point to multipoint; Point to multipoint system; Sound outside broadcast; Television outside broadcast; Television outside broadcast network; Television outside broadcast system; Temporary fixed link

9. Land mobile

Ambulatory station; Ambulatory system; Paging system; CBRS repeater; Land mobile system; PABX cordless telephone service

10. Maritime coast

Major coast A; Major coast B; Limited coast Non Assigned; Limited coast Assigned; Limited coast marine rescue

11. Maritime ship

Ship station Class B Assigned; Ship station Class B Non Assigned; Ship station Class C Assigned; Ship station Class C Non Assigned

12. Outpost

Outpost Assigned; Outpost Non Assigned

13. PTS [Public Telecommunications Service]

PMTS [Public Mobile Telecommunications Service] Class B; PMTS Class C

14. Radiodetermination


15. Scientific

Scientific Assigned; Scientific Non Assigned

16. Space

Space; Space Non Geostationary Orbit (NGSO) satellite system operating in a frequency band above 8.5 GHz

Receiver licences

17. Defence receive

Defence receive

18. Earth receive

Earth receive

19. Fixed receive

Fixed receive

20. Major coast receive

Major coast receive

21. Space receive

Space receive; Space receive Non Geostationary Orbit (NGSO) satellite system operating in a frequency band above 8.5 GHz

Underlying principles of apparatus licensing

The ACMA has a systems approach to licensing. Wherever possible, a single licence authorises the operation of many devices within a system.

For example, a land mobile licence authorises a land mobile system which includes the base station, standby base stations, supplementary base station(s), mobile stations, overlay paging receivers, remote control stations up to one watt and bi-directional amplifier systems operating within the operating range of the main base station area.

'Assigned' licensing options are used when an individual frequency assignment is required. Relevant frequency assignments are printed on the licence. For licences where standard frequencies apply, the 'non- assigned' licensing option is used and these frequencies and their usage are detailed in a Licence Conditions Determination referenced on the licence. Licence types include assigned and non-assigned licensing options. Examples of licence types having both assigned and non-assigned licensing options are Aircraft, Maritime Ship and Outpost.

Under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act), licences are not generally required for receivers. However, receivers requiring interference protection provided by frequency coordination must be licensed by the ACMA.

Licence conditions

The operation of radiocommunications equipment authorised by an apparatus licence is subject to:

  1. conditions specified in the Act, including an obligation to comply with the Act

  2. a condition that any radiocommunication device operated under the licence must comply with all the standards applicable to it

  3. conditions specified in the Radiocommunications Licence Condition (Apparatus Licence) Determination 2015 and any other determinations made by the ACMA under paragraph 107(1)(f) of the Act

  4. conditions specified on the licence

  5. any further conditions imposed by the ACMA under section 111 of the Act.

Licence conditions determinations

Under paragraph 107(1)(f) of the Act, the ACMA may determine, by written instrument, conditions relating to a particular type of apparatus licence. These conditions, known as Licence Conditions Determinations (LCDs), contain the conditions generic to various radiocommunications licence types and licensing options, such as details of assigned frequencies or frequency bands, and permitted power levels.

The Radiocommunications Licence Condition (Apparatus Licence) Determination 2015 (the Apparatus LCD) applies to apparatus licences, except for some broadcasting licences. The Apparatus LCD:

  1. provides that a licensee may only operate a radiocommunications transmitter under certain circumstances

  2. restricts the exposure of the general public to electromagnetic energy (EME) from radiocommunications transmitters to a level below recognised exposure limits

  3. requires a licensee, in certain circumstances, to demonstrate to the ACMA that EME from radiocommunications transmitters operated by the licensee does not expose the general public above recognised exposure limits.

Special conditions

Any other conditions of operation which apply to an individual licence but are not included in the LCD will be printed on the licence under the heading 'Special Conditions'.

An accredited person may ask the ACMA to impose one or more special conditions on the licence according to the circumstances in which the frequency assignments for the licence are made.

Advisory notes

Advisory notes, providing information that may be of interest to a licensee, will be printed on the licence under the heading 'Advisory Notes'.

An accredited person may ask the ACMA to impose one or more advisory notes on the licence according to the circumstances in which the frequency assignments for the licence are made.

Applying for an apparatus licence

Note to applicants

Applications for an apparatus licence may be made to any ACMA Office. The required application forms for the various apparatus licence types are here.

Who can be issued an apparatus licence

Section 97 of the Act provides that apparatus licences are issued to persons. A 'person' is defined, by subsection 22(1) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, to mean an individual, a body politic (i.e. a government) and a body corporate (for example, a 'company' such as Telstra, a 'statutory corporation' such as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, or an 'incorporated association' such as most sporting clubs).

A 'person' may include more than one person (for example, a partnership) as long as the parties agree, in writing, which one of the parties is the nominated licensee. Otherwise, both parties should be named on the licence if the physical limitations of the licence allow it.

A 'person' does not include a trust, an unincorporated association, a superannuation fund, or a business name. If a trust wanted to hold an apparatus licence, the trustee (i.e. an individual or a body corporate) would need to hold the licence on behalf of the trust. If a business name wanted to hold an apparatus licence, it would need to be held as a person (i.e. an individual or a body corporate), trading as the business name.

Transfers of apparatus licences

Apparatus licences may be transferred. Applicants wishing to transfer an apparatus licence should complete and submit to the ACMA the form R060 - Application for transfer of apparatus licence(s). Both the transferrer and the transferee must sign the transfer form. Applicants are required to pay a transfer charge to cover the ACMA's administrative expenses.

An application to transfer a licence may be made only when it is proposed that another person be substituted for the licensee.

There are a number of limitations on the transfer of apparatus licences. The Radiocommunications (Limitation of Authorisation of Third Party Users and Transfer of Apparatus Licences) Determination 2015 specifies these limitations.

A device authorised by the transferred licence must be operated under the same technical conditions (including transmission site) specified on the original licence.

Third party operation

Licensees may authorise in writing for other persons to operate radiocommunications devices under the apparatus licences. These are known as third party authorisations.

There are a number of limitations on third party authorisations. The Radiocommunications (Limitation of Authorisation of Third Party Users and Transfer of Apparatus Licences) Determination 2015 specifies these limitations.

A person authorised to use a radiocommunications device under a third party authorisation is subject to all of the licence conditions for the device.

Licence fees

Detailed information about fees is provided in the Apparatus licensing fee schedule booklet.

Review of decisions

Persons dissatisfied with an ACMA apparatus licensing decision can ask the ACMA to reconsider that decision. If you are dissatisfied with the reconsidered decision, you may apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for a review. The AAT is an independent body whose function is to review specified administrative decisions.

The kinds of decisions that may be reconsidered in relation to apparatus licensing are identified in section 285 of the Act.

Further information about how to apply for a review of a decision may be found in Part 5.6 of the Act.

Further information

For more information on the ACMA EME regulatory arrangements.

If you have any additional queries relating to this document, please contact the ACMA's Customer Service Centre on 1300 850 115 or

Ph: 1300 850 115

Last updated: 26 February 2019