The Turnbull government has announced that 125 MHz of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band will be sold at competitive auction for upcoming 5G mobile telecommunications services, while also revealing that existing users users of the spectrum will have between two and seven years to migrate away from it.
Spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band is recognised internationally as a key band for the rollout 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.
Incumbent users will have two years to vacate the band in the metropolitan capitals of Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney; five years to vacate the band in Perth (to allow additional time for incumbent satellite users in the area); and seven years to vacate the band in regional Australia.
This would ensure "incumbent operators have ample time to make new arrangements", Communications Minister Mitch Fifield’s office said in a statement.
In October 2017, the minister released a 5G directions paper and announced the formation of a 5G working group to "ensure Australia has the right regulatory settings to allow 5G applications to flourish".
Fifield has now issued re-allocation declarations for the 3.6 GHz band consistent with a recommendation from the independent spectrum regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The ACMA’s recommendation was informed by a public consultation process which commenced in October 2016.
“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,” Minister Fifield said.
“The ACMA’s recommendation provides for an unprecedented seven-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,” he 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, the minister’s office said.
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.
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