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Rules and principles to manage spectrum

We follow a range of different rules and principles to manage spectrum for Australia.

On this page:

  • The Radiocommunications Act 1992
  • Principles for Spectrum Management
  • Technical planning
  • Licences
  • Radiocommunications standards
  • International radio regulations

The Radiocommunications Act 1992

We manage the radio spectrum on behalf of the Commonwealth Government under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act). 

The Act includes:

  • the objectives of spectrum management
  • how we consult with stakeholders
  • the right to appeal a decision we make

It gives us the tools to meet those objectives. These include powers to:

  • plan frequency 
  • issue licences 
  • set technical standards

Principles for Spectrum Management

We developed 5 principles to create the biggest benefit from the radiofrequency spectrum. They help us balance regulation with market demand.

  1. allocate spectrum to the highest value use or uses
  2. enable and encourage spectrum to move to its highest-value use or uses
  3. use the least cost and least restrictive approach to achieving policy objectives
  4. to the extent possible, promote both certainty and flexibility
  5. balance the cost of interference and the benefits of greater spectrum use

We consulted with the public to develop these principles in 2008. 

Principles for Spectrum Management

If you have queries about the principles, email spectrumprinciples@acma.gov.au.

Technical planning 

The main measures we use for technical planning are:

Technical planning helps us match services with the frequency that has the right characteristics.

The way a radio wave spreads or propagates depends on its frequency. Different types of services have different frequency needs. The characteristics of each frequency decide:

  • how far the radio wave travels 
  • whether the radio wave can penetrate trees or into buildings

As the frequency increases, the cost of equipment generally increases. The result is that some bands are more valuable and in much higher demand than others.

Licences

To use a transmitter, you generally need a licence. These each have rules for the licence holder or the person who uses the device. The 3 forms of licences are:

We provide rules for each type of licence that include:

  • the bands the licence holder can operate in
  • the licence area the service can operate in
  • how to manage interference
  • the power limits for devices that transmit

Radiocommunications standards

We develop standards when we need to:

  • ensure transmitters are compatible with the mandatory technical performance requirements to operate
  • limit the emissions from transmitters

International radio regulations

In most countries, planning spectrum starts at the international level. We plan spectrum for Australia within an international framework. 

Like many other countries, Australia has signed the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) convention. The ITU is part of the United Nations. It maintains the international Radio Regulations. These set out how different services can use different radiofrequency bands.

Under international law, Australia must follow the ITU Radio Regulations. In summary:

  • Australia must not cause interference to the services of other countries where those services follow the radio regulations.
  • Australian services that follow the radio regulations are protected from interference from other countries.
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