Mobile spectrum for Aussie 5G services to be put up for auction

Mobile spectrum for Aussie 5G services to be put up for auction

Some incumbent carriers will have to make new "arrangements" as the spectrum goes on sale

The Federal Government will put 125 MHz of mobile spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band up for auction, effectively opening up for the door for new 5G services in metropolitan and regional Australia.

The move comes several months after Australia’s Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, released a 5G directions paper, announcing the formation of a 5G working group to settle on the best regulatory settings to allow 5G applications to be rolled out in Australia.

Now, Fifield has issued re-allocation declarations for the 3.6 GHz band that the Government suggests is consistent with a recommendation from the independent spectrum regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

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

As noted by Telstra in an open letter, entitled Expediting the reallocation of 5G mobile pioneer bands and dated 26 May 2017, to the ACMA, spectrum within and adjacent to the 3.6 GHz and 26 GHz bands has been identified as the most suitable for the initial deployment of 5G services.

“These bands are not currently available for mobile use in Australia,” Telstra said in its letter.

The decision by the Government to reallocate some of the 3.6 GHz bandwidth will give the country’s major telco carriers a bigger bite of the local airspace with which to roll out their respective 5G networks.

However, the move to auction the spectrum has been met with concern from some quarters, including – as noted by sister publication, Computerworld – wireless internet service providers (WISPs).

“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,” Fifield said in a statement.

“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.

The ACMA has proposed to work with the affected incumbent providers using the spectrum to establish site-based, coordinated licensing arrangements in the 5.6 GHz band, and is investigating the possibility of licensing in alternative bands.

According to the Government, incumbent users of the spectrum will have two years to vacate the band in metropolitan capitals, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney. Meanwhile, they will have five years to vacate the band in Perth, to allow additional time for incumbent satellite users in the area.

At the same time, existing users of the spectrum will have seven years to vacate the band in regional Australia, a move aimed at ensuring incumbent operators have time to make new arrangements.

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