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Auction summary - 2300 MHz Multipoint distribution station conversion (2000)

Quick summary

During 2000, the ACA converted 5-year MDS apparatus licences in the B band (2302-2400 MHz) to 15-year spectrum licences. The licensees paid a spectrum access charge (conversion fee) of $71 million in total. The spectrum licences may be used for any purposes provided transmissions comply with the technical framework, which will allow a wider variety of uses than the former MDS licences.

In general, MDS apparatus licences in the A band (2076-2110 MHz) remained in force until 25 July 2002, although MDS A band services at specific locations in Alice Springs, Broken Hill, Tasmania and North Queensland continued until 30 September 2003. After this time, the spectrum was used for other purposes as outlined in the 2.1 GHz Band Frequency Band Plan 2002.

Conversion date

24 July 2000

Amount raised

$71 million

Licence expiry

24 July 2015



Spectrum details

Band details

A band 2076-2111 MHz (unpaired)
B band 2300-2400 MHz (unpaired)
2302-2400 MHz was designated for spectrum licensing

Licence type

Spectrum licences

Previous use

Some Multipoint Distribution Station excluding pay TV use. Space operations and research

Licence period

The conversion process replaced B band apparatus licences issued for renewable periods of up to 5 years with 15 year spectrum licences


On 17 May 1993, the government announced that a previous tender process for Multipoint Distribution System (MDS) licences conducted by the Department of Transport and Communications under the Radiocommunications Act 1983 would be abrogated and a new allocation system put in place.

A Multipoint Distribution System consists of a microwave transmitter and associated omni-directional antenna (together known as a Multipoint Distribution Station) with receiving stations (known as Multipoint Distribution Station receivers) located within radio line of sight of the Multipoint Distribution Station. Multipoint Distribution Station Receivers generally consist of a highly directional microwave receiving antenna, a down converter, and a high quality receiver. After the government lifted its pay-television moratorium from 1 October 1992, the licences could be used for the transmission of text, graphics, still pictures, sound, non-entertainment video, and entertainment video including pay TV. The purpose for which there was the greatest demand for licences was the terrestrial distribution of pay TV.

Note: There were 34 MDS licences allocated over the counter prior to 1994. These licences were limited to the transmission of text, graphics, still pictures and sound due to the pay-television moratorium. After 1994, because the pay-television moratorium had been lifted, these licensees could apply to have their licence conditions amended to include the provision of non-entertainment and entertainment video, including pay TV.

Allocations were made from the band in 1994 (13 city areas), 1995 (18 regional areas), 1996 (re-allocation of 18 surrendered licences in Alice Springs and allocation of two additional licences in Canberra*) and 1997 (another surrendered licence was re-allocated in Alice Springs) by issuing multi-year apparatus licences under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act) via an auction process. Under the Act, apparatus licences may be issued for terms of up to 5 years.

In January 2000 under s36(1) of the Act, the Minister designated the band 2302-2400 MHz throughout Australia as part of spectrum to be allocated by issuing spectrum licences. Subsequently, all but one of the MDS apparatus licences in the B band were converted to 15 year duration spectrum licences. This provided certainty of tenure and allowed the frequencies to be used for other purposes, such as digital data transmission.

Since conversion, two substantial spectrum trades have altered the ownership of the 2302–2400 MHz spectrum licences. In January 2001, Television and Radio Broadcasting Services traded all its licences to Austar. In July 2005, Austar swapped 2.3 GHz spectrum it held in capital cities for 3.4 GHz spectrum Unwired held, via its subsidiary BKAL, in Austar’s regional subscription-television areas. The latter trade required the subdivision of original spectrum licence coverage areas and the creation of new spectrum licences.

Following a review of the use of the MDS band in 1999, MDS use of the A band was phased out by July 2002, except at specific locations in Alice Springs, Broken Hill, Tasmania and North Queensland. All MDS A band use ceased prior to March 2004. The purpose of this was to allow the 2076-2110 MHz band to be used for fixed point-to-point services cleared from other parts of the spectrum to make way for third generation (3G) cellular telephony.

In November 2007, the 2.3 GHz band was designated for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). As a result, this spectrum may be used to deploy a variety of wireless access service (WAS) applications. In consequence, and in response to requests from licensees, the ACMA developed a revised technical framework that better accommodates a broader range of services or technologies than were considered at the time of conversion. The emission limits of the revised technical framework will apply to new spectrum licences by virtue the Radiocommunications Spectrum Marketing Plan (2.3 GHz Band) 2009, which provides for the sale of any residual spectrum available in the band. The ACMA is currently in the process applying the new framework to existing spectrum licences by varying their licence conditions under s72 of the Act.

* Became available when additional technical studies allowed a reduction in the guard band protecting receivers at the Tidbinbilla Deep Space Complex from potential MDS band interference.


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