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Low power open narrowcasting licences

Low power open narrowcasting (LPON) is used for niche radio broadcasting services. We manage and issue LPON licences

LPON services are secondary to the provision of long-term, higher power community, national, commercial or high power open narrowcasting services available in licence area plans (LAPs).

Before applying for a LPON transmitter licence, you may want to obtain a Section 21 opinion from us about whether your proposed service is categorised as narrowcasting.

HPON and networked LPON service providers don't have to give us a statement explaining how reception of their services is limited in a way described in paragraph (18)(1)(a) of the Act anymore.

The removal of this requirement does not reduce or remove your legal obligation to comply with the limitation requirement in paragraph 18(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

If you do not comply with licence conditions, we may take regulatory action under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 including:

  • warning notices
  • fines
  • suspension or cancellation of your licence
  • prosecution

LPON service limitations

Reception

LPON service reception is always limited in some way. The program content may be targeted to special interest groups, or the services are intended for limited locations.

This may mean that an LPON service is only receivable in part of its potential coverage area. This is reflected in the cost of obtaining an LPON licence.

Available frequencies

The Determination of Radiofrequency Spectrum (Low Power Open Narrowcasting Services) 2018 makes parts of the radiofrequency spectrum within the 87.5 to 88.0 MHz range available for allocation.

It also makes certain parts of the radiofrequency spectrum outside of this range available for allocation to providers in specific geographic locations.

The Determination makes the spectrum available until 31 December 2025.

There are 7 licensed LPON services operating between 88.1 MHz and 108.0 MHz of the broadcasting services bands (BSB). It is unlikely that any more LPON licences will be made available in the BSB.

LPON services are limited to FM centre frequencies 87.6 MHz, 87.8 MHz and 88.0 MHz.

LPONs operating between 88.1 MHz and 108.0 MHz are subject to the same licence conditions as the services operating between 87.6 and 88.0 MHz.

Because these services are within the BSB, the following also applies:

  • we may consider moving an existing LPON to an alternative frequency to make way for radio services planned in a LAP
  • we are not obliged to find replacement spectrum for LPON licences

LPON licence conditions

Exclusion zones

LPON frequencies may be restricted to protect existing FM radio services operating on 88.1 MHz and 88.3 MHz. View the exclusion zones in Table 1 of the Planning model.

These boundaries are available in Shapefile format (ZIP, 6MB), suitable for use in Geographic Information System (GIS) software, and as a Google Earth placemark (KMZ, 1MB).

View a list of existing LPON services permitted to operate in the exclusion zones. If a licence in this list is cancelled because of a breach of the conditions, no new licences will be allocated at that site.

Power and coverage limitations

The operating power for LPON services is limited to a maximum of 1 watt effective radiated power (ERP) in residential areas and 10 watts ERP in non-residential areas.

LPON licensees must comply with the received signal field strength levels set for LPON services. The received signal field strength must not exceed 48 decibels above 1 microvolt per metre at 2km from the LPON transmitter site in residential areas or at 10km from the LPON transmitter site in non-residential areas.

To meet the field strength limitations of the licence conditions, you will be expected to reduce the transmitter power or ERP accordingly.

The intended coverage area of LPON services is:

  • 2km radius of the transmitter site for LPONs operating in residential areas
  • 10km radius of the transmitter site for LPONs operating in non-residential areas

Limited protection from interference

LPON services have no guarantee against interference from broadcasting services. Within its licence area, a broadcasting service is protected against interference from LPON services.

No security of tenure

LPON licences are allocated on a 'buyer beware' basis and have no guaranteed tenure. If spectrum is required for any reason (to plan new mainstream broadcasting services or to vary the conditions of existing mainstream broadcasting services, for example) we may take back affected LPON spectrum (without compensation), and there is no obligation to find replacement spectrum.

Minimum separation distance requirements

To prevent interference between LPON services using the same or an adjacent frequency, LPON services are restricted to the minimum separation distance requirements:

LPON carrier frequency separation
(kHz)

Separation distance
between
1W ERP LPON transmitters
(km)

Separation distance
between
10W ERP LPON transmitters
(km)

Separation distance
between
1W ERP and
10W ERP LPON transmitters
(km)

0

10

30

20

200

5

15

10

400

0

0

0

'Use it or lose it'

You must begin operation of your licence within 6 months of allocation. You must continue to provide a service with reasonable regularity and maintain records of when you began, hours of operation and the provision of a service under your licence.

This is to stop people from obtaining a LPON licence and not operating them, which is known as 'hoarding' and is not permitted.

Commercial radio services

An LPON service must not be operated as a commercial or community radio broadcasting service. There are penalties of up to $200,000 for providing a commercial radio service without an appropriate licence.

Breach of licence conditions

If you do not comply with the licence conditions, we may take regulatory action under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 including:

  • warning notices
  • fines
  • suspension or cancellation of your licence
  • prosecution

Obtain a LPON licence

We issue transmitter licences for LPON services through a price-based allocation process (PBA). Read more in the LPON applicant information package and the LPON planning model.

You are invited to apply for a LPON transmitter licence. Application documents must be completed and submitted by the closing date of the applications window period (below). We accept applications for locations Australia-wide.

If you are the only applicant, we will offer you the opportunity to acquire a licence at its reserve price. Where there is more than 1 applicant, we will hold an open-outcry auction.

Note: The times shown below are based on Canberra Local Time.

Upcoming rounds

11 am on Monday 11 May 2020 to 11 am on Monday 25 May 2020

11 am on Monday 03 August 2020 to 11 am on Monday 17 August 2020

11 am on Monday 02 November 2020 to 11 am on Monday 16 November 2020 

Current round

11 am on Monday 10 February 2020 to 11 am on Monday 24 February 2020 

Completed round

11 am on Monday 4 November 2019 to 11 am on Monday 18 November 2019

View previous allocation results:

LPON application checklist

Before submitting an application, make sure you follow these steps.

Step 1

Read and understand the LPON information package, which includes:

Radiocommunications (Allocation of Transmitter Licences - Low Power Open Narrowcasting Licences) Determination 2015

Step 2

Find out if there is capacity to establish a LPON transmitter at your proposed site by checking:

  • if spectrum is available (you can do this by finding out if there are existing LPON licensees using the same or an adjacent frequency)
  • whether your proposed site complies with the minimum separation distances for LPONs
  • the technical considerations for LPON services

Step 3

Check whether any of the 3 possible frequencies may be operated from your proposed site by either:

Step 4

Submit the completed application forms, including the application form 6a, Deed of acknowledgment 6b and the fee of $394.00. We must receive payment before the allocation round deadline.

Definition of residential and non-residential areas

A residential area is within 20km of an Urban Centre or Locality, as defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). A non-residential area is at least 20km from the boundary of an Urban Centre or Locality.

The current residential area boundaries can be downloaded in Shapefile format (ZIP, 6MB) suitable for use in Geographic Information System (GIS) software. The residential area boundaries are also available as a Google Earth placemark (KMZ, 1MB).

Contact us

Email: info@acma.gov.au
Phone: 1300 850 115

Mail:
LPON Allocations
Licensing & Infrastructure Safeguards Branch
Australian Communications and Media Authority
PO Box 78
Belconnen ACT 2616.

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