As reported on iTnews, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy issued a tender last week asking for assistance in putting a dollar value on its spectrum assets - which would suggest the Department is leaning toward the idea of an auction.
A spokesperson for Senator Conroy said the discussion paper released this afternoon, aims to gauge public perception around the possibility of mobile spectrum auctions, while the discussion paper released earlier this month by ACMA (The Australian Media and Communications Authority) is concerned with technical issues.
Senator Conroy said that while mobile spectrum licences do not begin expiring until 2013 [see table below], spectrum licencing is a "complex issue that will take some time to address."
The discussion paper seeks to explore whether Australians feel it is "in the public interest" for ACMA to allow mobile carriers to simply renew their licenses. Without such a declaration by the Minister of 'public interest', ACMA puts the spectrum back on the market for the highest bidder.
The paper also asks the public for their definition of what "the public interest" is - a term that is very loosely defined in Australian law.
Both renewal and reassignment (auctions) of mobile spectrum licenses have their advantages, the paper states.
"Renewal provides certainty to incumbents and therefore encourages investment and innovation," the paper reads. "Renewal could also minimise or negate the effects of service disruption to millions of consumers who currently use services offered on spectrum licensed bands"
Reassigning the license via an auction, by contrast, allows "the license to achieve its highest value use" and supports competition by "providing an opportunity for new entrants to enter the market."
Noticeably absent from the paper is any mention of how spectrum auctions are means by which successive governments have topped up their cash supply - a tempting option in the current climate.
The paper also called for comment as to whether there is sufficient competition in terms of mobile services, whether 15-year terms are appropriate for spectrum licenses, and whether the community receives an "appropriate rate of return" on the licensing of finite mobile spectrum.
The paper says future spectrum licensing also needs to account for future 4G technologies such as Long Term Evolution (LTE) "and also the continued development of broad spectrum applications such as Ultra-Wideband (UWB) and cognitive radio."
LTE, for example, is likely to require twice as much bandwidth than 2G phone services.
15-Year Radiofrequency Spectrum Licences
Licence Expiry Date
31 May 2012
Land Mobile - Taxies, Couriers ETC
17 June 2013
800 and 1800 MHz
Personal Communications Systems (PCS) - 2G mobile services
31 January 2014
28 & 31 GHz
Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) - AAPT licensed
3 May 2015
24 July 2015
Multipoint Distribution (MDS) - Pay TV and wireless broadband
13 December 2015
Fixed Wireless Access - Pay TV and wireless broadband
17 June 2016
Broadband Wireless Access - Satellite up and down links
11 October 2017
3G Mobile Services
26 April 2021
Defence satellite links
Source: ACMA website as at 20 December 2007 (http://web.acma.gov.au/pls/radcom/spectrum_search.cat_listing)
Processing registration... Please wait.
This process can take up to a minute to complete.
A confirmation email has been sent to your email address - SUPPLIED GOES EMAIL HERE. Please click on the link in the email to verify your email address. You need to verify your email before you can start posting.
If you do not receive your confirmation email within the next few minutes, it may be because the email has been captured by a junk mail filter. Please ensure you add the domain @itnews.com.au to your white-listed senders.