Australian govt seeks $3.2 billion for spectrum licences renewal

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Australia’s major telecommunications groups – Telstra, Vodafone Hutchison and Optus – along with Vivid Wireless are expected to cough up a collective $3.2 billion as the federal government has decided to reissue spectrum licenses in the 850 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz bands.

Stephen Conroy, Australia’s minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, released the instruments that enable the reissue of spectrum licenses for mobile phone and wireless broadband services used by millions of Australians.

The first instrument is a class of services determination that identifies mobile voice and data, wireless broadband and satellite services in certain spectrum bands. The second instrument is a direction on pricing of the spectrum used for these services.

“Spectrum is a national resource that needs to be managed in the public interest. The instruments enable the Australian Communications and Media Authority to reissue the licenses to the incumbent license holders. The renewal of the spectrum licenses is expected to raise approximately [$3.2 billion] over the next four years,” Conroy said.

“These are important services for Australian businesses and consumers. Reissue of licenses will provide certainty about the continuity and operation of mobile and wireless communication networks,” Conroy added.

The Radiocommunications (Class of Services) Determination 2012 was adopted Feb. 9 and includes following services:

  • Mobile voice and data communications services provided in the 800 MHz spectrum band (frequency ranges 825–845 MHz and 870–890 MHz).
  • Mobile voice and data communications services provided in the 1800 MHz spectrum band (frequency ranges 1710–1785 MHz and 1805–1880 MHz).
  • Mobile voice and data communications services provided in the 2 GHz spectrum band (frequency ranges 1920–1980 MHz and 2110–2170 MHz).
  • Wireless broadband services provided in the 2.3 GHz spectrum band (frequency range 2302–2400 MHz).
  • Wireless broadband services provided in the 3.4 GHz spectrum band (frequency ranges 3425–3492.5 MHz and 3542.5–3575 MHz).
  • Satellite services provided in the 27 GHz spectrum band (frequency range 26.5–27.5 GHz).

According to Australia’s Department of Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy (DBCDE) website, the government – in the late 1990s – commenced auctioning a number of spectrum licenses intended primarily for the provision of wireless telecommunications services. The licenses had a 15-year tenure, flexible conditions and were fully tradeable. Australia was among the first countries in the world to issue licenses on this basis. The first of these key spectrum licenses will expire in 2013, with the remainder expiring by 2017.

According to an Australian technology website, the release of the new spectrum will see an explosion in fast new 4G LTE smartphones, tablets and wireless dongles.

The next step is for the Australian Communications and Media Authority to examine licenses in the relevant spectrum bands to ascertain whether they have been used in the delivery of services specified in the instruments and are therefore eligible for reissue, the DBCDE stated.

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