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Optimising arrangements for the 3400–3575 MHz band
The 3400–3575 MHz band is subject to a mix of spectrum and apparatus licensing arrangements across Australia. These arrangements authorise a variety of services, including wireless broadband (both fixed and mobile), fixed satellite, radiolocation and amateur services. For historical reasons, the existing wireless broadband arrangements in the band are fragmented and not optimally configured for contemporary technologies.
The 3400–3575 MHz band forms part of the 3300–3800 MHz band that has been identified globally for wireless broadband use (including 5G). Consequently, there has been increasing interest in deploying such services in the band. Stakeholder engagement in the lead-up to the 3.6 GHz band auction in 2018 identified optimising spectrum and apparatus licence arrangements in the adjacent 3400–3575 MHz band as an activity that should be prioritised in the ACMA’s work program. Consolidating the different licence arrangements for wireless broadband use in the band (referred to as ‘defrag’) is expected to result in more efficient use of spectrum and a reduction in network deployment costs.
To date, the mix of licensing types across the band has impeded commercial negotiations to implement defrag. With the advent of 5G, the ACMA considers it is timely to consider whether regulatory intervention is required to facilitate change.
Issues being considered include:
- Planning options and mechanisms to facilitate a defragmentation of spectrum and apparatus licence arrangements. Current licensing arrangements act as a barrier to operators achieving commercial negotiations to trade licences and defragment the band.
- Planning options to make more of the band available for wireless broadband use. Both spectrum and apparatus licensing arrangements are considered. This accounts for interest from large, wide-area fixed and mobile network operators, as well as wireless internet service providers (WISPs) and other localised wireless broadband operators.
- The availability of urban areas of NBN Co’s public telecommunications service (PTS) apparatus licences for use by other operators. To date, NBN Co has not deployed services under their PTS licences within urban and surrounding suburban areas of Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Consequently, there has been interest from other wireless broadband operators in accessing these areas to deploy 5G services.
Feedback is sought on the issues outlined above. Any information provided will assist the ACMA in determining the best way forward in the 3400–3575 MHz band. Once this has been determined, a detailed plan and timeframe for implementation will be developed. As the government is currently in a caretaker period, it is noted that the spectrum management policies of an incoming government may have implications for future planning arrangements in the 3400–3575 MHz band.
Issues for comment
1. Do stakeholders have any comments on the case for action in the 3400–3575 MHz band?
2. Do stakeholders have any comments on the planning options identified? Are there any other planning options that should be considered? (Please provide reasoning.)
3. Do stakeholders have any comments on the planning goals for the 3400–3575 MHz band? Are there any other planning goals that should be considered?
4. If Option 2a or 2b are adopted, do stakeholders have views on how long the re-allocation period should be?
5. If Option 3a or 3b are adopted, do stakeholders have views on the period of time incumbent apparatus licensees should be given to implement restack? (Noting affected licences would not be reissued on existing frequencies beyond this point.)
6. If Option 3a or 3b are adopted, do stakeholders have views on how long the re-allocation period should be?
7. Do stakeholders have any comments on the assessment of planning options against the principles?
8. Is there any relevant evidence that provides an indication of the value wireless broadband operators place on how additional spectrum is made available (i.e. under spectrum or apparatus licensing arrangements)?
9. Do stakeholders have any comments on the preferred planning option for remote areas?
10. Should the broader 3400–3700 MHz band be considered when expanding arrangements for PMP in remote areas?
11. Do stakeholders have any comments on the preferred planning option for metropolitan areas, regional areas and major regional centres?
12. Would an earlier conversion of NBN Co’s PTS licences in metropolitan areas provide greater certainty for negotiations on defrag to occur?
13. Are the existing third-party authorisation arrangements (Approach 1) sufficient to facilitate access to urban areas of NBN Co’s PTS licences by other operators? If not, should the ACMA investigate what, if any, urban areas might be available under Approach 2?
14. Do stakeholders have any views on what co-channel interference management technique should be applied under Approach 2?