The role of the ACMA is to manage radiofrequency spectrum allocated to spectrum and apparatus licensees and assist in the move of spectrum to its highest value use.
The ACMA’s spectrum and apparatus licensing arrangements permit licence holders to allow third parties to use the licensed spectrum by negotiation. This flexibility encourages efficient use of spectrum.
A third-party authorisation is a private commercial agreement that allows a spectrum or apparatus licensee to authorise another person or organisation to operate a radiocommunications device. Persons authorised to operate radiocommunications devices under such arrangements are known as third-party users.
Spectrum licence-specific provisions
Apparatus licence-specific provisions
- ACMA power to direct revocation
- Conditions on amateur stations
- Conditions on high frequency broadcasting services
- Conditions on exempt and eligible licensees
A licensee does not have to seek the ACMA’s approval before granting a third-party authorisation, or to register the third-party agreement. It should be noted, however, that for the purposes of section 50 of the Trade Practices Act 1974, such authorisation is taken to be an acquisition by a person of an asset of another person. It is therefore subject to that Act’s prohibition of acquisitions that would result in a substantial lessening of competition.
If you authorise a third party to operate devices under a spectrum or an apparatus licence, you must:
inform that third party of their obligations under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act) and the conditions of the licence
take ultimate responsibility for ensuring that all operations of these devices comply with the conditions of the licence.
Any contravention by the licensee or third party of a licence condition, the Act, or any other Commonwealth, state or territory law may result in suspension or cancellation of your spectrum or apparatus licence.
To assist the ACMA, please complete details of any third-party authorisations that you may have in this form:
Spectrum licence-specific provisions
Section 68 of the Act outlines conditions of third-party authorisation that relate specifically to spectrum licences.
In addition to general licence conditions, the spectrum licensee must notify third parties of any registration requirements for radiocommunications devices operating under the licence. The licensee is free to delegate authority to the third party to arrange (through an ACMA accredited person) the device registrations required.
A spectrum licensee must also notify third parties of any rules made by the ACMA relating to third-party authorisation. Previously, the Radiocommunications (Third Party Use—Spectrum Licence) Rules 2000 No. 2 allowed the licensee to revoke at will any authorisations. These rules were repealed on 4 April 2011.
Section 68A outlines that an authorisation under a spectrum licence is to be treated as an acquisition or asset for the purposes of section 50 and subsections 81(1) and (1A) and 88(9), 89(5A) and 90(9) of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
Apparatus licence-specific provisions
Sections 114 to 118 of the Act outline the rules governing third-party authorisations under an apparatus licence and stipulate that a licensee must
make the third party authorisation in writing
- keep a copy of it in Australia and retain it for at least one year after it ceases to be in force
- not authorise a third party that has had a licence of the same type or a licence for the same type of radiocommunications device suspended or cancelled within the past two years
- only authorise a user in accordance with the ACMA’s determinations made under section 115 of the Act
- if directed by the ACMA, revoke authorisation to any third party within seven days and only further authorise that user if the ACMA's direction has been set aside upon review
- notify third party users, within seven days, of the effect of ACMA notices of changes in licence conditions, revoking of the authorisation, and suspension or cancellation of the licence.
Sections 114 (3AA) to (3F) of the Act contain further requirements for licensees of digital radio multiplex transmitters and datacasting transmitters.
ACMA power to direct revocation
Under section 116(1) of the Act, the ACMA can direct an apparatus licensee to revoke a third-party authorisation if it believes that a condition of the licence has been contravened. These decisions are reviewable under Part 5.6 of the Act.
Conditions on exempt and eligible licensees
The ACMA imposes a number of other conditions on apparatus licensees and third party users.
The Radiocommunications (Limitation of Authorisation of Third Party Users) Determination 2000 provides that an apparatus licensee:
who is exempt from paying apparatus licence fees must not authorise a third party user to operate under the licence unless they are also classed as exempt
who is an eligible person and therefore pays a concessional fee for an apparatus licence, must not authorise a third party to operate under the same licence unless they are also classed as eligible or exempt
of a HF Overseas Service licence, who is operating an exempt broadcasting service, must not authorise a third party to operate a radiocommunications device under the licence unless they are also eligible for exemption under subsection 18A (3) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
Conditions on high-frequency broadcasting services
The Radiocommunications (Limitation of Authorisation of Third Party Users) Determination 2000 provides that a licensee of a HF Overseas Service licence (i.e. either the Australian Broadcasting Corporation or the Special Broadcasting Services) must not authorise a third party to operate under that licence, if they intend to provide an international broadcasting service or broadcasting service within Australia.
Non-national broadcasters operating HF Overseas Service stations for international broadcasting services must have an International Broadcasting Licence (IBL) in force authorising operation in the 5.9 MHz to 26.1 MHz frequency range. Licensees of HF Overseas Service stations must not authorise the third party to operate under the licence unless they have an IBL relating to the proposed service.
Further information about high frequency broadcasting services.
Conditions on amateur stations
International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radio Regulations require that anyone who wishes to operate an amateur station must prove that they have the necessary qualifications verified by national administrations such as the ACMA. These requirements are embodied in sections 119 to 122 of the Act and in the associated Radiocommunications (Qualified Operators) Determination 2005, with the effect that operators of Amateur Advanced, Standard, and Foundation stations must hold a relevant Australian Amateur Operator's Certificate of Proficiency, or an equivalent.
Amateur licence holders can authorise third parties to operate their station, but there are limitations on who can be authorised and how the station can be operated.
As an amateur licensee, you can only authorise operators with the same or higher Australian qualifications, or overseas equivalents. A licensed Advanced Amateur operator may, for example, only authorise others if they are qualified to operate an Advanced Amateur station. Either they must have an Australian or an equivalent overseas qualification to that level.
An amateur station can only be operated by a third party in accordance with the conditions that apply to that station. For example, a licensed Foundation amateur may be able to issue a third party authorisation to a more qualified user such as an Advanced Amateur user, but that user may only operate the station under Foundation licence conditions.