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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 can obtain a Section 21 opinion from us about whether your proposed service is categorised as narrowcasting.

HPON and networked LPON service providers no longer have to give us a statement explaining how reception of their services is limited (as described in paragraph (18)(1)(a) of the Act). However, 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 licence conditions audit: March to June 2022

We’re conducting an audit of LPON licensees to make sure they comply with record-keeping and licence conditions. We do this to:

  • ensure LPON licensees know about licence conditions and how to comply with the rules
  • gather information so we understand the LPON market and related compliance issues.

Audit process

  1. New licensee check-ups

We’ll contact new LPON licensees – those that have obtained a licence in the last 12 months – to outline their licence conditions.

  1. Field audits

We’ll select a small, randomised sample of LPON licensees to check:

  • that transmitters are in place in the licensed location
  • the transmitter is working
  • the transmitter is operating within the licensed power limits.
  1. Documentation checks

A sample of LPON licensees will be asked to supply records. We will request:

  • a copy of the logbook from 1 December 2021 to 31 January 2022 showing the hours/events of operation
  • evidence of broadcast recordings
  • information about the nature of the service the licensee is providing.
  1. Compliance checks

We’ll be checking that licensees are following the conditions of their licences, including:

  • signal strength, reception, frequency, protection of interference and tenure limitations
  • exclusion zones
  • power and coverage limitations
  • minimum separation distances
  • use it or lose it’ (UIOLI) requirements
  • record-keeping requirements.

Please email compliance.operations@acma.gov.au if you have questions.

LPON service limitations

Reception

Reception of LPON service is always limited. Program content may be targeted to special interest groups, or the services are intended for limited locations, meaning an LPON service may only be received in part of its potential coverage area. The cost of an LPON licence reflects these limitations.

Available frequencies

The Determination of Radiofrequency Spectrum (Low Power Open Narrowcasting Services) 2018 makes parts of the 87.5 MHz to 88.0 MHz range available for LPON allocation until 31 December 2025.

Spectrum outside of this range is also available for providers in specific geographic locations.

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.

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 services operating between 87.6 MHz and 88.0 MHz.

Because these services are within the BSB:

  • 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. Exclusion zones are shown  in Table 1 of the Planning model.

These boundaries are available in Shapefile format (ZIP, 6MB), suitable for use in 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 is limited to a maximum of:

  • residential areas: 1-watt effective radiated power (ERP)
  • non-residential areas: 10 watts ERP.

The received signal field strength must not exceed 48 decibels above 1 microvolt per metre at:

  • residential areas: 2 km from the LPON transmitter site
  • non-residential areas: 10 km from the LPON transmitter site.

To meet the field strength limitations of the licence conditions, licensees need to reduce the transmitter power or ERP accordingly.

The intended coverage area is:

  • residential areas: 2 km radius of the transmitter site
  • non-residential area: 10 km radius of the transmitter site.

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 (for example, to plan new mainstream broadcasting services or to vary the conditions of existing services), we may take back affected LPON spectrum (without compensation) and are under no obligation to find replacement spectrum.

Minimum separation distance requirements

Minimum separation distance requirements prevent interference between LPON services using the same or an adjacent frequency.

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'

LPON licences have important ‘use it or lose it’ conditions:

  1. licensees must start broadcasting within 6 months of getting a licence
  2. licensees need to broadcast regularly
  3. licensees must keep records.

These conditions stop people from getting a licence and not using it. This is known as hording and can result in LPON licences not being renewed or cancelled.

Download our ‘use it or lose it’ conditions guide to find out more.

Read our news article about UIOLI provisions following decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

See also paragraph 4.11 of Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Broadcasting Licence) Determination 2015.

LPONs must not operate as 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 licensees do not comply with the licence conditions, we may take regulatory action under the Radiocommunications Act, including:

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

Applying for an 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.

Application documents must be submitted by the closing date of the application period (below). We accept applications for locations Australia-wide.

Applicants should submit their LPON applications early. Conditions of existing LPONs included in the RRL, including frequencies, geographical locations and power limits, do not change during the application window as we do not approve variations to existing LPON licences until after the round is finalised.

If the RRL is unavailable, applicants can access the RRL daily download data during the application period at Radiocomms licence data and import the downloaded data into the Offline RRL.

If there is only one applicant, we will offer the licence at its reserve price. If there is more than one applicant, we will hold an open-outcry auction.

Variation to Existing LPON licences

The ACMA does not process variations to existing LPON licences during LPON Allocation Rounds. The suspension period starts from the starting date/time of the two-week application window and finishes at the end of the Allocation Round. This is to ensure a stable licensing database during the application window and to allow all prospective applicants an equal opportunity to apply for new LPON licences based on stable licensing data.

We notify all APs at the beginning, and at the end of each LPON Allocation Round.  

You may vary your LPON licences outside an Allocation Round.

Upcoming application rounds

Times below are based on Canberra Local Time.

Applications open

Applications close

11 am, Monday 31 October 2022

11 am, Monday 14 November 2022

If there is more than one applicant for the same lot, we will notify all parties involved within 25 business days after applications close.

Completed round

View previous allocation results:


LPON application checklist

  1. Read and understand the LPON information package, which includes:

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

  2. Find out if there is capacity to establish a LPON transmitter at your proposed site by checking:
    • if spectrum is available (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
  3. Check whether any of the 3 possible frequencies may be operated from your proposed site by either:
  4. Submit your 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.

Download the current residential area boundaries in Shapefile format (ZIP, 6MB) suitable for use in 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 and Infrastructure Safeguards Branch
Australian Communications and Media Authority
PO Box 78
Belconnen ACT 2616

Next up: LPON Licence Limitations
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