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Q&As: 3.4/3.7 GHz bands draft instruments – February 2023 tune-up

On 24 February 2023, we held a tune-up to discuss and summarise the proposals in the consultation on the draft instruments for the 3.4/3.7 GHz bands allocation process. We invited your questions at and after the tune-up. Responses are shown below.

Is the ‘English open outcry’ methodology proposed for the secondary stages of the 3.4/3.7 GHz bands allocation process the same as the ‘simple clock auction’ previously used in the 850/900 MHz band, 26 GHz band and 3.6 GHz band auctions?

The mechanism for the English open outcry – an ascending bid process, as reflected in the procedures for the secondary stage in the draft allocation determination – is identical to the one used in the previous 850/900 MHz band, 26 GHz band and 3.6 GHz band auctions. The name has been updated to align with the naming convention that our auction system provider uses, as well as to reflect international conventions for referring to the format.

 

Can you provide more granular timing for milestones leading up to the auction?
A timeline of milestones leading up to the allocation process is as follows:

  • Allocation instruments – we expect to be made in late June 2023.
  • Auction information, including the applicant information package, we expect to be made available in July 2023. Applications will also open at that time, with the application deadline later in July 2023.
  • In accordance with our draft allocation instruments, after the application deadline, we will distribute associate information and request a statutory declaration regarding affiliations within at least 10 working days of the date of the request.
  • Eligibility information, including the eligibility nomination form, whether an eligible applicant wants to be directly allocated a leftover lot (subject to the outcomes of consultation). Eligibility payment will be due by the eligibility deadline scheduled for September 2023.
  • Auction system training and mock auctions will be held after the eligibility deadline.
  • The auction is estimated to commence in October 2023.

Please note that these times are indicative and may be subject to change. The application and eligibility deadlines will be published on our website (along with the applicant information package) shortly after the final allocation instruments are made, and the ACMA sets those deadlines.

Applicants will be notified of deadlines relating to affiliations after the application deadline. Dates for auction system training and mock auctions will be made available to registered bidders after the eligibility deadline.

 

Why has the ACMA included the power to delay the 3.7 GHz band auction by 10 working days?
Even though the auction format of the 3.4/3.7 GHz bands auction is the same as that used in the 3.6 GHz, 26 GHz and 850/900 MHz bands auctions, the auction system is new. Although we will conduct extensive user acceptance testing, the ability to delay the start of the allocation process by delaying the 3.7 GHz band auction will enable us to resolve any issues that might arise during mock auctions with bidders. We consider the risk of this occurring to be very low. In the event this occurs, we have proposed a delay of at least 10 working days, as we consider this is the minimum time needed for us and our auction system provider to resolve last-minute technical issues.

 

What is the difference between a binding nomination made in the pre-bidding phase of the secondary stage, and a bid made in the first round of the secondary stage?
In the pre-bidding round of the secondary stage (Round 0), there is a single price for each product (the starting price). If a bidder makes a bid for a residual lot in Round 0, and no other bidders bid for that lot, then the bidder’s bid is binding, and they will acquire that residual lot at the starting price. There will be no Round 1 for that residual lot.

If a residual lot proceeds past Round 0, the bidder is presented with the amount required to make an exit bid and the amount required to make a continue bid (which is calculated based on the increment). The bidder may enter a price to make a bid in accordance with its intention (i.e., an amount to make an exit bid, an amount to make a continue bid, or an advance price).

 

How will the process for executing documents in the online application interface work?
We are still working through the functionality of the online application interface. We expect that the requirements for executing documents will align as closely as possible with those required for paper forms.

Further information about accessing and using the online application interface will be available in the auction guide. The auction guide will be published as part of the applicant information package, which will be released shortly after the final allocation instruments are made.

 

What is being done to discourage spectrum squatting?
We are aware that there is demand for mid-band spectrum from a range of different parties. Across our suite of allocations in the 3.4–4.0 GHz band, we have made planning decisions and are designing allocation processes to facilitate a range of use-cases via the spectrum licence auction and administrative allocation processes for apparatus licences, including area-wide licences (AWLs).

The conditions of use for any 3.4/3.7 GHz bands spectrum licences are outlined in the sample licence in Schedule 7 to the draft marketing plan.

As noted in our 3.4/3.7 GHz bands draft instruments consultation paper, the ACMA’s preliminary view is to temporarily restrict participation by the mobile network operators (MNOs) and NBN Co in the allocation of AWLs in the 3.8 GHz band (3.75–3.95 GHz in regional areas, and 3.8–3.95 GHz in metropolitan areas and surrounds). This nil limit would provide local area wireless broadband services, point-to-point services and fixed satellite services initial priority to access spectrum in the band.

In the consultation material for the allocation of AWLs in remote areas in the 3.4–4.0 GHz band, we have noted that we will monitor allocation and use of the band over time. As also noted in the consultation material, if we form the view that unmet demand in 3.4–4.0 GHz in remote areas will require a consideration of spectrum use at renewal, we propose to communicate this to licensees no less than 3 months before the expiry date of the licence.

For the 3950–4000 MHz restricted cell (low power systems) segment, we are in the process of considering appropriate methods to allocate the spectrum. We plan to consult on possible approaches in Q3 2023.

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