Scientific licence - Guidelines | ACMA

Scientific licence - Guidelines


This information paper provides details of the licensing arrangements applicable to the Scientific licence type.

What is a scientific licence?

A Scientific licence is issued to authorise a station which operates primarily to perform any of the following activities:

  • research into radiocommunications;
  • investigation of radiocommunications;
  • instruction in radiocommunications;
  • demonstration of equipment;
  • testing of equipment;
  • trials of new radiocommunications technology;
  • radio propagation path testing.

Examples of the above could include periods of performance testing required to develop, prove and apply new technology, to evaluate products, to allow a new product time to mature or to establish a market for a new product.

Examples of individuals who, and organisations which, would meet the above criteria could include:

  • teaching institutions;
  • research bodies;
  • manufacturers of radiocommunications equipment;
  • business organisations or persons engaged in the design and/or repair of radiocommunications equipment; and
  • business organisations or persons engaged in the sale of radiocommunications equipment.

Scientific licences are not issued for the operation of equipment that is a non-standard transmitter under subsection 9(2) of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Radcomm Act).    

The Scientific Licence type is defined in the Radiocommunications (Interpretation) Determination 2015.

Trials of new technologies

The ACMA has a policy of facilitating technical trials of new technologies, including broadcasting technologies, where radiofrequency spectrum can be allocated for the trial, so that interference is not caused to any existing radiocommunications service. Note that permission to conduct a trial in no way pre-empts or constrains future policy. In particular:

  • Allocation of spectrum for a trial confers no rights to use of that spectrum other than for the purpose and duration of the trial.
  • Allocation of a part of the spectrum for a trial does not preclude trials of other systems using that spectrum or imply that the application being trialled will be the preferred user of that spectrum in the future.
  • Permission to trial a particular technological system does not imply the system will be introduced into Australia permanently or, if it is, that it will use the same part of the spectrum as the trial service.
  • The fact of participation in a trial does not imply the trial participant will be permitted to operate the system being trialled if the Australian Government decides on its permanent introduction.
  • In any application involving the participation of the public, potential triallists should address the issue of access to equipment in the market place for the proposed tests, how equipment will be made available in the market and how consumers will be made aware of the temporary nature of the trial.
  • People who acquire equipment in connection with trials, including retailers or members of the public who purchase receivers to participate in trials, or receive trial services, do so at their own risk that the trial may be discontinued.

The ACMA is conscious of the possibility that demand from bona fide applicants to conduct trials in nominated markets and/or on particular frequencies may exceed the availability of spectrum. Additionally, the ACMA is aware of the possibility that more than one applicant may wish to undertake trials at the same time.

If these situations arise, the ACMA's preference is for aspirant triallists to resolve competing demands though a process of negotiation. However, if negotiation does not produce a workable solution, the principles used to guide the ACMA in reaching a decision will include:

  • the purpose of the trial;
  • the preparedness of the applicant to commence a service on the nominated date;
  • the nominated date of the trial;
  • whether the trial could practicably proceed using a different location or frequencies; and
  • such other matters the ACMA considers relevant.

For more information about trials of new technologies, please consult the ACMA's Guidelines for dealing with applications for apparatus licences for the trial of new radiocommunications technologies (PDF 144 kb or Word 176 kb).

Licensing options

The Scientific licence type permits two licensing options:

  • Scientific assigned; and
  • Scientific non assigned.

Scientific assigned

If an individual frequency assignment is required, a scientific licence authorising a scientific assigned station is issued. Relevant frequency assignments will be printed on the licence.

Scientific non assigned

The scientific non assigned licensing option will be used for scientific licences where:

  • standard frequencies apply; or
  • a screened room is used; or
  • testing takes place into a non radiating dummy load.

Licence conditions

The operation of radiocommunications equipment authorised by a scientific licence is subject to:

  • conditions specified in the Radcomm Act, including an obligation to comply with the Radcomm Act;
  • a condition that any radiocommunications device operated under the licence must comply with all the standards applicable to it;
  • conditions specified in any determinations made by the ACMA under paragraph 107(1)(f) of the Radcomm Act
  • conditions specified in the licence; and
  • any further conditions imposed by the ACMA under section 111 of the Radcomm Act.

Generally, conditions are applied to licences to enable users to communicate effectively with a minimum of interference. Where the purpose of the scientific licence is to investigate radiofrequency propagation, or to test an application of a new technology, and the results could contribute to achieving best practice spectrum management, or otherwise further the public interest, the ACMA may impose a reporting requirement condition. This may require the results of a trial be made available to the ACMA and the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Reports are to be provided within a timeframe determined by the ACMA and should be framed to address the parameters and objectives of the trial or other matters the ACMA determines. All conditions relating to a licence must be complied with.

Licence conditions determinations

The ACMA may determine, by written instrument, conditions relating to apparatus licences. These conditions are known as Licence Conditions Determinations (LCDs).

The Radiocommunications Licence Condition (Apparatus Licence) Determination 2015 contains conditions of licence that are common to all apparatus licences.

The Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Scientific Licence) Determination 2015 contains conditions of licence that apply to all Scientific licences. These conditions include the type of communications permitted, with whom the operator is permitted to communicate, callsign usage and relevant equipment specifications.

An advisory note is automatically attached to licences where an LCD is in force. The note will advise of the applicable LCD. The licence conditions imposed through the relevant LCD may change from time to time. Licensees should ensure that they have informed themselves of the current conditions imposed by the ACMA.

Special conditions

There may be cases, for example, where the proposed service is mobile, where a Scientific licence has the following special condition attached:

'No interference shall be caused to any radiocommunication station or service and no protection from interference by such stations or services shall be afforded.'

Any other conditions of operation which apply to individual licences but are not included in the LCD, will be printed on the licence under the heading 'Special Conditions'.

An accredited person may ask the ACMA to impose one or more special conditions on the licence according to the circumstances in which the frequency assignments for the licence are made.

Advisory notes

Advisory notes, providing information that may be of interest to a licensee, will be printed on the licence under the heading 'Advisory Notes'.

An accredited person may ask the ACMA to impose one or more advisory notes on the licence according to the circumstances in which the frequency assignments for the licence are made.


Unless the station is operated for transmitting a message other than by voice and using a form of transmission for which it is not technically practicable to use a form of identification or callsign the licensee of a scientific station must either use a form of identification that clearly identifies the station, or a callsign allocated by the ACMA.

Callsigns are a unique series of letters and/or numbers allocated to a radiocommunications user to identify a station. Callsigns must be used for all on-air communications including testing. Callsigns allocated to scientific stations conform with International Telecommunication Union Radio Regulations (see Table 1 for callsign construction).

Table 1 - Scientific callsign template


Scientific callsign template (example of typical callsign AX2VAB)


first two alpha characters of the allocated callsign series for scientific stations



first alpha character represents the State or Territory in which the station is operating, for example V = Victoria and S = South Australia. The second and third characters are any alpha


While an apparatus licence may be issued for any period up to five years, in the case of scientific licences, the licence period should be for the minimum time necessary for a client to achieve their purpose. This will be subject to the ACMA's normal administrative process of issuing licences for a period of one year, which may be renewed if required.

Review of existing scientific licences

Scientific licences will be reviewed at the end of the licence period, to determine if stations continue to accord with the intended purpose of scientific stations. The intention of licensees taking out scientific licences should always be to convert to an appropriate apparatus type as soon as possible.

Other issues

Retail demonstration of equipment

Retail stores demonstrating equipment for sale should have appropriate licences for that equipment. Some equipment may be covered by class licences. Equipment using frequencies applicable to particular licensing options (other than Scientific) should be licensed under those licensing options. For example, equipment using amateur frequencies should be licensed under an Amateur licence (and a licensed amateur should be operating the equipment). Otherwise, such equipment should be licensed under a scientific licence.

Communication with other Countries

A scientific licence may cover communications between Australia and other countries. However, licensees will also have to comply with regulatory arrangements developed by the administration of the other country.

Morse code

Where radiated emissions involve Morse code, the operator may be required to demonstrate an ability to send and receive Morse code signals. Morse code is also used by certain devices, such as non-directional beacons.

Non-standard transmitters

Scientific licences are not issued as a means of authorising non-standard transmitters. Instead a permit may be issued for non-standard transmitters that authorises, under section 167 of the Radcomm Act, the possession and, if so specified, the operation of such transmitters.

However, if a non-standard device is used in a radiocommunications service, both a relevant apparatus licence, which may be a Scientific licence, and a permit, may be issued.

Arrangements for class licensed devices

A scientific licence is not required for transmitters covered by a relevant class licence.

Frequency assignment

Standard frequencies/bands

Standard frequencies that have been specifically set aside for general scientific purposes have been included in the Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Scientific Licence) Determination 2015. These frequencies are suitable for demonstration and testing purposes. Where use of standard frequencies is suitable, a Scientific licence authorising a scientific non assigned station will be issued.

The frequencies 830.1875 MHz and 875.1875 MHz, that were allocated for point to point path testing are no longer available. Further information is provided in the notice End of Re-allocation period for 800 MHz spectrum.

Non-standard frequencies/bands

Where standard frequencies are not suitable, a frequency assignment may be made from the miscellaneous segments of the VHF bands, in accordance with Table 2. In this case, a Scientific licence authorising a Scientific Assigned station may be issued.

Table 2 - Miscellaneous Segments

VHF Band

Transmit/Receive (MHz)



Low Band

29.7 - 31.0*#
36.0 - 37.0#
39.0 - 41.0*

20 kHz

Mid Band

70.0 - 70.24375
77.29375 - 77.49375

12.5 kHz (nominal)

Single Frequency

Mid Band

84.69375 - 84.99375

12.5 kHz (nominal)

Two Frequency

High Band

151.39375 - 152.49375
173.29375 - 174.0

12.5 kHz (nominal)

* Cordless telephones operate in the bands 30.0625 - 30.125 MHz and 39.7625 - 40.25 MHz. The interference management framework to accommodate cordless telephones is based on the assumption that no other radiocommunications devices operate in the bands provided for them. Assignments for Scientific stations will not be made in these bands.

# Radio-controlled models operate in the bands 29.72 - 30 MHz and 36 - 36.6 MHz. The interference management framework to accommodate radio-controlled models is based on the assumption that no other radiocommunications devices operate in the bands provided for them. Assignments for Scientific stations will not be made in these bands.

Industrial, scientific and medical bands

Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) bands may be appropriate for scientific applications. Scientific licences for scientific assigned stations may be issued to authorise scientific applications in the ISM bands detailed in Table 3.

Table 3 - ISM Bands

13.553 - 13.567 MHz

26.957 - 27.283 MHz

40.66 - 40.70 MHz

918 - 926 MHz

2400 - 2500 MHz

5725 - 5875 MHz

24 - 24.25 GHz

Ultra wideband

In accordance with the ACMA's policy of encouraging trials of new technology, radiofrequency bands in which ultra wideband (UWB) technology may be researched, tested or demonstrated have been included in the Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Scientific Licence) Determination 2015.

UWB is an emerging technology developed to transfer high rates of data over very short distances at very low power levels. UWB devices work by transmitting very short duration bursts of radiofrequency energy. These result in extremely wide band transmissions across the radiofrequency spectrum.

Applications to conduct UWB trials will be assessed for their potential to cause interference to other radiocommunications services. Conventional frequency co-ordination is not applicable to this very low power, wide band technology which is designed to share the same spectrum as other services. Scientific licences authorising scientific non-assigned stations will be issued for these trials.

Ongoing access to spectrum

The issuing of a scientific licence in no way implies that the spectrum allocated for such a licence will be available to a client in the longer term, once the 'scientific' nature of the station has ceased to be relevant. For example, once a piece of equipment or a new technology is proven to work, another apparatus licence type will apply and the spectrum appropriate for that type must be assigned.

Applying for an apparatus licence

Applicants should complete the ACMA application form Scientific non-assigned or Scientific available from our website under Spectrum Forms. If frequency assignments are required with this licence, the frequency coordination work may be performed either by the ACMA or an accredited person.

If you wish to use the services of an accredited person you should refer to the List of Accredited Persons for contact details. An accredited person will issue you with a frequency assignment certificate and this should be submitted with the licence application. Accredited persons are not employed by the ACMA, nor is the ACMA responsible for the work of accredited persons.

More information about Accreditation can be found on the ACMA website.


Spectrum is a valuable resource. Fees are intended to ensure a fair return to the Commonwealth for the private use of this valuable public resource. Licence fees are set having regard to spectrum location, geographical location, amount of spectrum occupied and coverage area authorised by the licence.

Detailed information about fees is provided in the Apparatus Licence Fee Schedule booklet.

Licence fee exemptions and concessions

Individuals and organisations may be eligible for an exemption or concession from the payment of licence fees. For further information see Licence Fee Exemptions and Concessions.

Transfers of apparatus licences

Apparatus licences may be transferred. Applicants wishing to transfer an apparatus licence should complete and submit to Radiocommunications Licensing and Assignments, the form Application for transfer of apparatus licence(s) (R060). Both the transferer and the transferee must sign the transfer form. Applicants are required to pay a transfer charge to cover the ACMA's administrative expenses.

There are a number of limitations on the transfer of apparatus licences. The Radiocommunications (Limitation of Authorisation of Third Party Users and Transfer of Apparatus Licences) Determination 2015 specifies these limitations.

A device authorised by the transferred licence is still required to operate under the same technical conditions (including transmission site) as specified on the original licence.

Third party operation

Licensees may authorise, by written instrument, other persons to operate radiocommunications devices under the apparatus licences. These are known as third party authorisations.

There are a number of limitations on third party authorisations. The Radiocommunications (Limitation of Authorisation of Third Party Users and Transfer of Apparatus Licences) Determination 2015 specifies these limitations.

A person authorised to use a radiocommunications device under a third party authorisation is subject to all of the conditions applicable to that device under the licence.

Further Information

If you have any additional queries relating to this, or any, licence type, please contact Radiocommunications Licensing and Assignments.

Last updated: 13 August 2019