The ACMA’s spectrum work priorities, outlined in the Five-year spectrum outlook 2017–21, have a strong focus on making more spectrum available for 4G and 5G technologies. The ACMA welcomes comment on these future work priorities, as well as feedback on major spectrum reforms proposed for the 3.6 GHz and 900 MHz bands.
Re-allocating the 3.6 GHz band for 5G
The ACMA is commencing processes to re-allocate the 3.6 GHz band for 5G. We have detailed our vision for the future of this band in the Future use of the 3.6 GHz band—Decisions and preliminary views paper, which responds to the Future use of the 3.6 GHz band consultation package, released in July 2017.
We have also released the Draft spectrum reallocation recommendation for the 3.6 GHz band paper, consulting on a draft recommendation to the Minister of Communications that he re-allocate the 3.6 GHz band for spectrum licensing in metropolitan and regional areas. Submissions about the configuration and sale of the new licences are invited from potentially affected apparatus licensees in the band, and potential purchasers of spectrum licences in the band.
Reconfiguration of the 890–915/935–960 MHz band for 4G
In December 2016, the ACMA published a consultation paper with five options that might enable the reconfiguration of the 890–915/935–960 MHz band for 4G mobile technologies. Reconfiguring the 890–915/935–960 MHz band—Way forward sets out how the ACMA intends to proceed with reconfiguring the band and discusses some implementation issues that the ACMA is seeking further submissions on.
Five-year spectrum outlook 2017–21
The ACMA’s future work priorities are outlined in the Five-year spectrum outlook 2017–21 (the FYSO). For the first time, the FYSO includes information about the ACMA’s forward work plan for spectrum allocations, Spectrum Review implementation activities and our approach to development of an annual spectrum work program in response to the Spectrum Review.
Have your say
The ACMA welcomes submissions to these important consultations:
Draft spectrum reallocation recommendation for the 3.6 GHz band
Reconfiguring the 890–915/935–960 MHz band—Way forward
Five-year spectrum outlook 2017–21
Find out more about the three major spectrum work plans:
The 3575–3700 MHz band (the 3.6 GHz band)
The ACMA has detailed its vision for the future of the 3575–3700 MHz band (the 3.6 GHz band) in the 3.6 GHz decisions and preliminary views paper released today. Simultaneously, the ACMA has released a paper consulting on a draft recommendation to the minister that he re-allocate the 3.6 GHz band for spectrum licensing in metropolitan and regional areas. This paper formally consults with all affected apparatus licensees in the band on a proposed future allocation for wide-are wireless broadband services. The paper seeks submissions from potential purchasers of spectrum licences in the band about the configuration and sale of the new licences.
The release of the Future use of the 3.6 GHz band—Decisions and preliminary views paper concludes the review process for the 3.6 GHz band that commenced in October 2016 with the discussion paper, Future use of the 1.5 GHz and 3.6 GHz bands. This paper sought industry feedback on the ACMA’s medium- and longer-term planning approaches to address rising demand for mobile broadband services in the 1.5 and 3.6 GHz bands. Seventy-two submissions and one supplementary submission were received in response.
The Future use of the 3.6 GHz band—Decisions and preliminary views paper provides a summary and response to submissions as well as the outcomes of the Future use of the 3.6 GHz band consultation package released in July 2017. The major outcome detailed in this paper is to commence the process to spectrum-license the 3.6 GHz band in metropolitan and regional Australia. These arrangements will support the deployment of wide-area fixed and mobile broadband services and help position Australian operators to be at the forefront of the 5G revolution.
Potential users of the 3.6 GHz band for wide area broadband services have confirmed strong interest in gaining access to the band in metropolitan and regional areas, either for fixed or mobile services. This interest has been amplified given the ongoing global interest in use of the band for early 5G deployments. In making its decisions, the ACMA has recognised the potential impact on incumbent licensees. In response to concerns raised in submissions raised by existing services in the bands, the ACMA has decided on a range of mitigations, in some cases unprecedented, to assist incumbents with the transition. In relation to regional point-to-multipoint services providers, which includes wireless internet service providers, this includes proposing extended re-allocation periods, a commitment to review alternative options in the 5.6 GHz and 28 GHz bands, as well as promoting commercial negotiations to support ongoing access to spectrum where possible. In addition to this, the ACMA is committed to working with the satellite industry to identify Earth station protection arrangements on the east coast of Australia.
Reconfiguration of the 890–915/935–960 MHz band
The 900 MHz band has long been a cornerstone for mobile service delivery in Australia.
The purpose of this reconfiguration of the 890–915/935–960 MHz band (or ‘900 MHz GSM band’) is to enable efficient deployments of 4th generation (4G) long term evolution (LTE) mobile technologies in the band, given that legacy 2G services have been, or are being, switched off. The band is apparatus-licensed to Telstra, Optus and VHA in 8.4 or 8.2 MHz frequency division duplex (FDD) pairs. The ACMA identified the band would need to be reconfigured into 5 MHz paired blocks to maximise its efficiency for use by 4G services that are of interest to the mobile carriers.
In December 2016, the ACMA published a consultation paper with five options that might enable this transition. Responses to that consultation were varied and raised a number of concerns and suggestions that the ACMA has been considering in determining a way forward. These included the potential implications of service discontinuity, particularly in regional areas, associated with some reform options, as well as drawing linkages between the 890–915/935–960 MHz and 809–824/854–869 MHz (or ‘850 MHz expansion’) bands.
In response to submissions, the ACMA decided the most appropriate means of achieving the necessary band reforms is to clear the current apparatus licences in the 890–915/935–960 MHz band and recommend to the government that the band be subject to a price-based allocation of 5 MHz (based) lots.
Recognising the importance of service continuity in regional areas, the ACMA considers the clearance process should allow sufficient time for alternative arrangements to be put in place, so will recommend that the new arrangements should not come into play until mid-2021. The ACMA also recognises that there are direct linkages between the 890–915/935–960 MHz and 850 MHz expansion band—which is also planned for 4G use but unallocated—and will recommend to the minister that the two bands should be allocated concurrently, with licences in the 850 MHz expansion band also issued in mid-2021. The final amount of spectrum in the 850 MHz band available for price-based allocation will be subject to government consideration of options for delivery of public safety mobile broadband (PSMB), which remain pending at this time.
As clearance of the 850 MHz band is currently still ongoing, allocation together with 900 MHz would mean that the 850 MHz band licences would be partially encumbered for the first three years of their tenure. Existing services transitioning out of that band would be protected during that time, and the scope for 4G deployments in that band will vary by frequency and location up until 2024.
The ACMA is seeking further submissions regarding 900 MHz from affected licensees and, potentially, other wireless broadband operators on some related issues. In particular, the ACMA is interested in industry views on how best to achieve an eventual downshift of the adjacent 800 MHz licences, which would further optimise the 900 MHz band for wireless broadband. The ACMA has decided to reconfigure the 890–915/935–960 MHz band (the 900 MHz band) and optimise it for 4G deployments.
Five-year spectrum outlook 2017–21
The ACMA has communicated its spectrum management priorities through its five-year spectrum outlook (FYSO) since 2008–09, and this year is using the FYSO to consult with stakeholders on a range of planning and prioritisation issues.
There are two parts to this year’s FYSO:
Part 1 sets out three major pieces of new work that the ACMA is seeking stakeholder views on:
- An approach to implementing the Spectrum Review recommendations for a spectrum work program that includes consultation with the minister and inviting submissions on a draft.
- A forward allocation work plan. This plan is intended to provide incumbent and prospective spectrum users with indicative information about the timing and sequencing of the price-based allocation of licences in a number of spectrum bands. Whether individual bands proceed to reallocation and auction is contingent on future ACMA and ministerial decisions at the planning stage, other government policy considerations, market demand, and industry priorities for access to spectrum.
- Spectrum Review implementation work plan. The ACMA has a significant body of work occurring over the next few years to implement the Spectrum Review recommendations currently being drafted into legislation—in particular, the design of a new licensing system and work on the redesign of accreditation and equipment rules, new frequency assignment and spectrum planning frameworks. The ACMA is consulting on our work plan to implement the Spectrum Review reforms, indicating its approach to reform priorities and when it is intending to consult with stakeholders on the design of the revised spectrum management arrangements.
In the second part of the FYSO, the activities the ACMA intends to undertake over the remainder of 2017–18 are outlined, which are informed by stakeholder feedback received in relation to last year’s FYSO and through other consultation processes. The FYSO also addresses the issues we anticipate emerging over the next five years and the progress we have made in relation to our previous 12-month work plan.