Spectrum decision-making process | ACMA

Spectrum decision-making process

This article is taken from the ACMA's Five-year Spectrum Outlook 2013-2017, published in September 2013. 

The Five-year spectrum outlook 2013–2017  is available for download as an e-mag, PDF and word document here. The Table of contents and links to individual sections of the report are available here.


The ACMA makes a range of decisions and develops instruments to manage the radiofrequency spectrum. Decisions made by the Authority produce spectrum management outcomes in the form of allocations, pricing, licensing frameworks and licence conditions. Figure 2.2 illustrates the basis for and process behind these decisions. As indicated by the arrows encircling this diagram, spectrum management outcomes affect the environment and the demand for and supply of spectrum and so in this sense the process is iterative.

2.5.1 Principles for spectrum management

The principles provide scope for the ACMA to manage spectrum through a balanced application of both regulatory and market mechanisms. In summary, the principles are as follows:
1. Allocate spectrum to the highest value use or uses.
2. Enable and encourage spectrum to move to its highest value use of 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 utilisation.
The principles aim to:
> promote consistency, predictability and transparency in the ACMA’s decision-making
> provide guidance for major planning and allocation decisions to be made
> increase the ACMA’s ability to respond to challenges, including the impact of new technologies and increasing demand for spectrum for advanced services.
The Radiocommunications Consultative Committee (RCC) has advised that the principles should be reviewed for possible updates to:
> provide further explanation or clarification on the language used to describe key concepts in spectrum management, such as ‘highest value use’ and ‘total welfare standard’
> provide a broader consideration of what constitutes value in terms of spectrum use that is not limited to economic considerations.

Further information on this project is outlined in Chapter 6.

2.5.2 Total welfare standard

In 2007, the ACMA adopted a total welfare standard for use when:
> the policy and legislative framework provides the ACMA with discretion about the tests it might apply
> a regulatory intervention might have a significant economic impact on consumers, producers or other stakeholders.
In these circumstances, the impact on total welfare is one important factor that the ACMA will take into account.

The ACMA recognises that the assessment of costs and benefits using a total welfare standard will often need to take into account both quantitative and qualitative factors. When the total welfare standard is applied, all significant benefits and costs are taken into account and given the same weight, irrespective of the identity of the recipient.

Figure 2.2 The ACMA’s spectrum management decision-making framework Figure 2.2 The ACMA’s spectrum management decision-making framework

Last updated: 08 June 2016