Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has used an industry forum to propose changes in the licensing arrangements for 2G and 3G mobile phone and wireless services.
In a speech to the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) member networking forum on March 3, Conroy praised the economic strength of the wireless communications sector.
“Looking to the future, in terms of demand for wireless broadband, it looks like there will be exponential growth for some years to come,” he said. “The massive growth of mobile services will drive greater use of fixed services.
“The Government’s massive expansion of the fixed-line capacity through the National Broadband Network will dramatically increase development of wireless services.”
The Minister went on to announce a re-issuing of 15-year radio frequency licences used by major telcos to provide mobile phone and broadband coverage.
“Renewal will be offered to those incumbents who are using their licences to provide services to significant numbers of Australian consumers…or have in place networks capable of providing services to a significant number of consumers,” he said.
“We will offer licence renewal to the major telecommunications providers – Telstra, Optus, VHA and Unwired…The Government will seek a fee that reflects the scarcity and value of this important public resource.”
The move to seek a fee marks a change from the traditional method of holding public auctions for long-term spectrum licences. Although public auctions for spectrum will still be held, the Minister indicated this would mainly be for renewals that are not in the public’s interest.
The five public criteria components will be:
- Promoting the highest-value use for spectrum
- Investment and innovation
- Consumer convenience
- Determining an appropriate rate of return to the community
But in an apparent warning to the industry and Telstra, which is being threatened by either structural separation or an inability to purchase additional spectrum, Conroy said major players should not expect automatic renewal at a low price.