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Q&As: 3.4–4.0 GHz band – July 2022 tune-up

On 27 July 2022, we held a tune-up to discuss the 3.4–4.0 GHz band. It included the 3.4 and 3.7 GHz bands auction design, and technical framework matters with the 3.4–4.0 GHz frequency range (including radio altimeters, and the coordination and licensing of fixed satellite services). We invited your questions and comments after the tune-up. Responses are shown below.

Why is the application window date for area-wide licences (AWLs) in the 3.4–4.0 GHz band in remote areas delayed?
The remote technical framework for the 3.4–4.0 GHz band in remote areas is yet to be finalised. In particular, the issue of coexistence with radio altimeters must be resolved before AWLs are allocated.

Why is a 200 MHz guard band not sufficient for radio altimeters?
Submissions to both the remote and spectrum reallocation consultations gave different views on coexistence between radio altimeters and wireless broadband spectrum uses. We are examining the evidence to work out what interim mitigations on WBB deployments are needed (in addition to the 200 MHz guard band) to manage coexistence.

When did you consult on the hierarchical cell identification scheme (HCIS) description for remote and regional areas?
We consulted on proposed definitions several times. In the early planning consultations on Optimising arrangements for the 3400–3575 MHz band and Planning options for the 3700–4200 MHz band in 2019 and 2020 we sought comments on the planning and use of the remote areas. These were defined as all geographic areas beyond those currently spectrum-licensed in the 3.6 GHz band. Based on the preliminary decisions we made in these papers, in the Proposed spectrum re-allocation declaration for 3.4 GHz and 3.7 GHz bands consultation that ran between 20 March and 4 May 2022 we consulted again on planning arrangements across the 3.4–4.0 GHz band. HCIS definitions of metro, regional and remote areas were provided in the appendices to this paper. KML files (viewable in Google Earth or other GIS software) of these areas are also provided on the consultation page. Remote areas are defined as those not encompassed by metropolitan and regional areas.

Is there a difference between the urban excise areas and other metropolitan area definitions?
The urban excise areas are the unused parts of NBN Co’s former spectrum holdings in metropolitan areas. Following the conversion of NBN Co’s 3.5 GHz public telecommunications service licences into spectrum licences, the urban excise areas are now unencumbered. The definition for these areas is at Appendix A of Planning for wireless broadband use of urban areas in the 3400–3475 MHz band paper.

When was the decision to make 150 MHz in regional areas available for AWLs made?
The pending availability of spectrum for AWLs in regional areas is referenced in a few documents, most recently in the Proposed spectrum re-allocation for the 3.4 GHz and 3.7 GHz bands: Outcomes paper and in the Draft Five year spectrum outlook 2022–27. The outcomes paper states that 200 to 250 MHz of spectrum for AWL licensing will be made available in regional areas at the top of the 3.4–4.0 GHz band. Effectively, frequencies and areas in the 3.4–4.0 GHz band not subject to spectrum licensing will be made available for AWL licensing. Information on the areas and frequencies subject to spectrum licensing (including KML files) in the 3400–3800 MHz frequency range is available on the ACMA website.

What is the ACMA’s reasoning behind the sequencing of spectrum and AWL allocations?
We are considering the design of the spectrum licence auction and the metro/regional AWL allocation. This includes the optimal sequencing of the allocations. As outlined in the Draft Five-year spectrum outlook 2022–27, the AWL allocation is set to occur in 2023–24. Our indicative timing for the spectrum licence auction is Q3 2023, as identified in the Proposed spectrum re-allocation declaration for the 3.4 GHz and 3.7 GHz bands: Outcomes paper. We note that elements of the allocation design, including allocation limits, may have some interdependence with the other allocation. We must carefully consider these matters before deciding an approach.

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