Australian Government approves auction process for 5G spectrum

On Mar 8, the Australian Government announced that auction process for 5G spectrum, paving the way for new 5G services in metropolitan and regional Australia.

According to the announcement, the 125 MHz of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band will be sold at competitive auction.

Spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band is highly valuable as it is being recognised internationally as a key band for the roll out of 5G services.

In Australia, this band is currently used for fixed satellite service earth stations, point-to-point links and site-based wireless broadband services.

“I have carefully considered the implications for regional Australians in making this decision, and the declaration provides protections for incumbent users in the band while ensuring Australia is well-positioned to take advantage of 5G technology in years to come,” Australian Minister for Communications Senator Mitch Fifield said.

As reported earlier, Minister Fifield released a 5G directions paper in October 2017 and announced the formation of a 5G working group to ensure Australia has the right regulatory settings to allow 5G applications to flourish.

Minister Fifield has now issued re-allocation declarations for the 3.6 GHz band consistent with a recommendation from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The ACMA is the independent statutory authority and spectrum regulator that is tasked with ensuring most elements of Australia's media and communications legislation, related regulations, and numerous derived standards and codes of practice operate effectively and efficiently, and in public interest.

The ACMA’s recommendation was informed by an extensive public consultation process which commenced in October 2016.

 “The ACMA’s recommendation provides for an unprecedented 7-year re-allocation period in regional Australia. This will allow incumbents, such as regional fixed wireless broadband operators, to continue to deliver services until the middle of next decade – and this could continue beyond the re-allocation period if agreed with a new spectrum licence holder,” Minister Fifield said.

In addition, the ACMA has proposed to work with these providers to establish site-based, coordinated licensing arrangements in the 5.6 GHz band, and is investigating the possibility of licensing in alternative bands.

Incumbent users will have 2 years to vacate the band in the metropolitan capitals of Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney; 5 years to vacate the band in Perth; and 7 years to vacate the band in regional Australia, ensuring incumbent operators have ample time to make new arrangements.

As part of the reallocation process, the Minister has also written to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) seeking advice on competition limits for the auction process.

The ACMA is expected to commence the auction in October.

The declaration documents are available at the Federal Register of Legislation.

Australian Government recognises that 5G technology is an enabler of innovation and productivity across industry sectors and can significantly contribute to Australian’s growth and future prosperity. 

Last December, the Australian Government has formed a 5G working group that brings together representatives from across Government and industry to foster an ongoing discussion on 5G issues.

As reported earlier, the 5G Working Group met last month to discuss the development of 5G technology in Australia. It is expected to meet at least twice each year, before the review of its role by 30 June 2019.

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