This guide provides assistance to potential applicants for a trial certificate. It outlines the Australian Government’s telecommunications policy framework as it applies to trial certificates. Applicants should make their own enquiries about their legislative and other obligations.
Purpose of trial certificates
Trial certificates enable industry participants to trial the technical and commercial feasibility of their networks and services for a period of up to six months without the need to acquire a carrier licence. This period can be extended for a further six months on application. Following the conclusion of the trial certificate period, the owner of the network unit(s) is required to either comply with the standard carrier licensing requirements or decommission the network unit(s).
The requirement to obtain a carrier licence with its associated regulatory and administrative costs is seen as a barrier to the trialling of networks and services. In 2019 the minister made the Telecommunications (Carrier Licence Exemption - Trial Network Units) Determination 2019 under subsection 51(1) of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act) removing the requirement for owners of network units used for trials to hold a carrier licence, or for a nominated carrier declaration to be in force, where the ACMA has issued a trial certificate.
The minister’s Determination gives the ACMA discretionary powers to determine whether the applicant’s network unit(s) is used solely for a trial and to issue a certificate for a proposed trial.
Submitting an application
An application for a trial certificate must be made on the ACMA T056—Application for trial certificate form. There is no charge for a trial certificate application. Completed applications and any necessary supporting information or documentation should be submitted to:
Networks and National Interests Section
Australian Communications and Media Authority
PO Box 13112
Law Courts Melbourne VIC 8010
A decision by the ACMA to issue a trial certificate, which effectively exempts the owner of a specified network unit(s) from the regulatory framework for a period not exceeding six months, requires careful and detailed consideration.Although there is no legislative time frame within which the ACMA is required to make a decision, the process typically takes about 45 business days. In certain circumstances, additional information or consultation may be required.
Assessing your application
The ACMA will assess your application for a trial certificate against a number of criteria:
- the duration of the trial
- any previous trials for a similar service
- the reasons for the trial, including whether it is to evaluate technical feasibility or commercial prospects
- the effect on competition of the trial
- any charges to end users participating in the trial
- whether the size of the trial would unreasonably affect the revenue of a carrier
- any other matters the ACMA considers relevant.
These criteria guide the ACMA in determining whether the application relates to a valid trial, if the trial will have a commercial impact on other industry players and if there are any significant risks in granting the trial certificate.
The ACMA will treat the information you have supplied as commercial-in-confidence, where appropriate, and will not disclose it except as required by law.
Obligations of applicants
While the trial certificate removes the requirement under section 42 of the Act regarding carrier licensing, it does not remove any legislative obligations of carriage service providers.
Carriage service providers are defined as those who use a telecommunications network to provide services to the public. Applicants should familiarise themselves with carriage service provider requirements by reading the Guide to service provider obligations.
When considering an application, the ACMA requests assurances from applicants that the trial network will comply with the Telecommunications Act 1997, the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 and, where the applicant is providing voice services, the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2009.
The ACMA may also require assurances about other parts of the Act or other legislation on a case-by-case basis.
Scope of the trial certificate
The ACMA may also require assurances that the scope of the trial limits or prevents the carrying out of certain activities. For example, the trial certificate may specify a maximum scope or scale to ensure that the trial remains a ‘genuine’ trial. Extension beyond the scope specified in the certificate at any time may result in its revocation.
Extension to a trial certificate
A trial certificate comes into force on the date that it is issued and remains in force until the end of the period specified in the certificate. A trial certificate-holder may apply to the ACMA for an extension of its trial for a period not exceeding six months, effective from the expiry of the original certificate. The ACMA will consider a number of issues including the commercial impact on other industry players before issuing an additional certificate to extend the time of the trial period.
Report on trial
The ACMA asks all successful applicants to provide a full report on the results of the trial within 28 days of its conclusion. The ACMA uses this information when considering future trial certificate applications for similar networks. Specifically, advice is sought about:
- the technical and commercial viability of the service
- the details of any technical problems and how the applicant considers these problems may be dealt with
- the number of complaints that were directly related to the technology used during the trial, and a brief explanation of how each of these complaints were dealt with
- whether the applicant believes that the trial would lead to further deployment of its service under a carrier licence. If the answer to this question is no, the arrangements for decommissioning and removing the infrastructure deployed during the trial should be specified.
For further information about the trial certificate application process, please contact the ACMA’s Networks and National Interests Section on 1300 850 115 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org