- 1Open for comment09 Oct 2018
- 2Consultation closed09 Nov 2018
The 26 GHz band is one of the key frequency bands being considered for the delivery of millimetre wave (mmWave1) fifth generation (5G) wireless broadband services, both internationally and domestically. The ACMA has been conducting a review of the band, which now concludes with the release of paper Future use of the 26 GHz band—Planning decisions and preliminary views. This release signals the progression of the 26 GHz band to the ‘re-planning’ phase under the ACMA’s planning process and sets out an agenda for the implementation of a range of new measures, including:
- the introduction of new wireless broadband services in the band, including some 2.4 GHz of spectrum proposed to be made available for wide-area deployments in populated areas under spectrum licensing
- a suite of spectrum, apparatus and class licensing measures to enable participation from a broad cross-section of industry, including sectors not traditionally associated with wireless broadband network deployments supporting localised, niche-use cases.
A key component of the review has been assessing the potential for coexistence between wireless broadband (5G) and incumbent services. Having considered this in detail, we are comfortable that this coexistence can be achieved using the measures set out in the paper—which include additional operating conditions for new wireless broadband operators to ensure the ongoing viability of existing services—and that the proposed combination of new measures will best maximise the public benefit derived from the use of the band.
The ACMA will consider applications for scientific licences in the 26 GHz band.
The ACMA will shortly commence work on providing new arrangements to facilitate the introduction of wireless broadband services into the 26 GHz band. The paper outlines the next steps, which include future rounds of consultation on:
- a draft recommendation to the Minister for Communications on potential reallocation of the range 25.1–27.5 GHz for spectrum licensing in defined areas
- arrangements for apparatus licensing in the range 24.7–25.1 GHz (Australia-wide) and 25.1–27.5 GHz outside of defined areas
- updating the Radiocommunications (Low Interference Potential Devices) Class Licence 2015 to include new arrangements for wireless broadband in the range 24.25-25.1 GHz.
Relationship with the 28 GHz band
Concurrently, the ACMA is considering options for replanning the adjacent 28 GHz band. While planning of the 26 GHz band is more advanced than the 28 GHz band, there is a clear interrelationship between the two bands, and we have endeavoured to take a holistic approach towards millimetre wave planning. The decisions set out in the 26 GHz band have been taken with that interrelationship in mind; consideration of 28 GHz planning options will also take account of 26 GHz planning decisions.
Like 26 GHz, the 28 GHz band has a number of incumbent uses, including satellite and fixed point-to-point services, and has also seen significant international interest for the introduction of new wireless broadband services. The Replanning of the 28 GHz band options paper outlines a set of options for reconfiguring that band.
Summary of original consultation
Millimetre wave (mmWave) frequency bands have for some time been considered the next frontier in the provision of mobile broadband services. Advances in radiofrequency (RF) technology, materials and components will soon unlock enormous amounts of data capacity available in bands above 24 GHz (strictly speaking, mmWave refers to 30 GHz and above), which until now could not practically be leveraged in consumer technologies.
Central to this is the 26 GHz band, which comprises 24.25–27.5 GHz. This band, along with the upper-adjacent (and partially overlapping) 28 GHz band, is likely to be the first of the mmWave bands to be allocated internationally on a widespread basis for wireless broadband services. While it is only one of a number of bands being considered in current international studies, it has been the subject of heaviest focus for studies under that agenda item, and has also garnered the most interest among other developed countries for initial mmWave wireless broadband deployments.
Given this international momentum, along with a growing equipment ecosystem and limited incumbency issues in the band, the ACMA has been considering when an appropriate time might be to make it available for the provision of wireless broadband services in Australia. The ACMA held a spectrum tune-up in September 2017, where it was proposed that it might be appropriate for the ACMA to accelerate the progression of the band through the established stages of planning set out in the ACMA’s mobile broadband (MBB) strategy. Specifically, it was proposed that feedback in response to the 2016–2020 FYSO and the abridged consultation process that accompanied the tune-up could be considered a substitute for the initial investigation stage of planning the band.
This consultation process, therefore, represents the next step in the planning of the 26 GHz band. The Wireless broadband in the 26 GHz band—Options paper (available in the table above) contains a range of potential options for both what should be allocated, in terms of specific frequencies and areas, and how the band should be allocated, in terms of which licence types should be adopted in the band to meet a range of potentially varying wireless broadband use cases.
The ACMA welcomes comment on specific matters raised in the options paper. The views of stakeholders will be considered in the finalisation of arrangements for wireless broadband in the 26 GHz band.
Relationship to ACMA work on 28 GHz
There is significant international interest in both 26 GHz and 28 GHz as potentially the first spectrum to be released for ‘mmWave’ 5G applications, with many administrations tending towards one or the other band depending on local incumbency issues. This means that domestic decisions on 26 GHz are of potential relevance to arrangements in 28 GHz, and vice versa. To assist the Authority and industry in taking a ‘holistic’ view of all issues affecting 26 and 28 GHz use, the ACMA is keen to align its consultation process on the 28 GHz band with the present (26 GHz) paper. The 28 GHz spectrum is more heavily used than 26 GHz in Australia, and there is potential interest in the band from several different sectors and use cases. Consideration of the 28 GHz band is currently at the initial investigation phase and a forthcoming discussion paper, expected in the weeks following release of the 26 GH paper, will float some early ACMA thinking on broad planning scenarios. Responses to that paper will help crystallise these scenarios into more discrete formal planning options, which will be the subject of a future consultation process.
Uncertainty about the lower boundary of a wireless broadband allocation
The lower boundary of a wireless broadband allocation in the 26 GHz band is dependent on coexistence with passive earth exploration satellite services (EESS) in the 23.6–24 GHz band (lower-adjacent to the 26 GHz band). Unfortunately, the international work-to-date on this issue has provided insufficient information to conclude where the lower boundary of any 26 GHz allocation should lie. While significant progress has been made towards studying the potential impact on these services and identifying any necessary constraints on wireless broadband—emission limits were recently agreed for wireless broadband services in the band in Europe—further work is needed to understand the impact of these limits on wireless broadband deployments in the lower part of the band.
The options paper asks a number of questions intended to help the ACMA develop a domestic position that takes appropriate account of the international work-to-date. The ACMA is also convening a working group of interested stakeholders to consider the issue associated with frequency boundaries and associated coexistence, which will run in parallel with the consultation period for the options paper. This working group would be a complement to, and not a replacement for, the usual Technical Liaison Group (TLG) that is established when putting together technical frameworks for an allocation. The working group would consider, among other things, the European emission limits in the context of the Australian radiofrequency environment and provide input to the ACMA on views regarding how much frequency separation is required above 24 GHz to adequately protect EESS services.
This group would also be an opportunity to discuss any issues of concern at the upper boundary of the band as well (that is, 27 or 27.5 GHz), as well as considering whether any additional, domestic-specific measures might be appropriate to help protect FSS satellite receivers. Views from this working group will help respondents to this paper form views on the implications of coexistence with EESS on potential frequency arrangements for wireless broadband. Proposed terms of reference for this working group are contained in Appendix 3 of the options paper.
Issues for comment
The ACMA welcomes comment from stakeholders on the issues set out in the consultation paper Future use of the 26 GHz band—Planning decisions and preliminary views.