Feedback on the ACMA's spectrum outlook

Australian Communications and Media Authority

By Jonathan Nally
Tuesday, 20 October, 2020



Feedback on the ACMA's spectrum outlook

A consultation on the ACMA’s Five-Year Spectrum Outlook has seen a number of concerns raised and ideas suggested.

The ACMA regularly issues its Five-Year Spectrum Outlook (FYSO) document, which details its spectrum management work program. The current draft FYSO spans the years 2020 to 2024.

Having called for feedback on the draft, the ACMA has published an addendum document that outlines the submissions it received. There were 49 such submissions from industry, peak bodies, government agencies and individuals, with the Authority stating that it has “given careful thought to all submissions and incorporated submitter reflections into our internal considerations”.

The consultation covered topics such as the short- and medium-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACMA’s spectrum work program, technological developments, replanning of bands and forward allocations.

As a result of the consultation, the ACMA has added some activities to its work program, such as investigating Wi-Fi developments and needs (including the 6 GHz band) and reaffirming its ongoing consideration of spectrum sharing.

Regarding the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, submissions outlined the increased telco network demand as a result of changed work and study patterns. Other submissions “identified the need for financial assistance and support for regional and remote communication and emergency services”.

Regarding, technological developments, the ACMA noted great interest in 5G and associated spectrum matters. In response, the Authority said that it is “making a significant amount of spectrum available for 5G and is on track to allocate spectrum in the 26 GHz band for spectrum licensing in early 2021”.

“Subject to Ministerial consideration, we are working towards an auction of 850/900 MHz band spectrum in late 2021. Defragmentation of the 3.4 GHz band is also underway. Apparatus licensing arrangements supporting wireless broadband are also being developed in a number of bands, including 26 and 28 GHz. This will support industry in its continued rollout of 5G networks.

“A work program to review and, where appropriate, update existing spectrum licence technical frameworks to better support 5G technologies is underway. This will support industry in its continued rollout of 5G.”

On the topic of local area wireless broadband (including private LTE and private 5G), some submissions said that “the ACMA should be doing more to find dedicated spectrum for uses such as industrial complexes including factories, enterprises, ports, mines, petrochemical installations and agricultural environments”.

In response, the ACMA said that it “has released an information paper detailing spectrum options currently, or in the process of being made available for local area private wireless broadband networks. Of note is the current review of arrangements in the 3700–4200 MHz band and implementation of class and apparatus licensing arrangements in the 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands.

“The new FYSO work item looking at possible changes to class and apparatus licences in 1880–1920 MHz band may offer additional opportunities for private and local area wireless broadband purposes.”

The ACMA received many submissions concerned with priorities for proposed band planning activities, covering interests in the satellite, Wi-Fi, private LTE and ITS (automotive) sectors.

“On balance, given current FYSO commitments and industry feedback, we intend to focus on consolidating and delivering the existing work program commitments, with the addition of a small number of new activities,” the ACMA said, listing Wi-Fi, local area wireless broadband/private WBB and ITS as specific points of interest.

There were also submissions about various aspects of the “planning ‘stages’ process used in the FYSO to describe the ACMA process for undertaking major replanning activities,” with the ACMA clarifying its processes and outlining more details within the FYSO.

Another matter raised by some submissions was the topic of pricing; in particular, pricing arrangements for shared spectrum and spectrum used for research purposes. In response, the ACMA said that it is “developing a work program to implement the Spectrum Pricing Review”.

The full FYSO and its addendum can be read at https://www.acma.gov.au/publications/2020-09/publication/five-year-spectrum-outlook-2020-24.

Image courtesy ACMA.

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