Conroy seeks feedback on mobile spectrum auctions

 

Senator Stephen Conroy has sought comment from the Australian public as to whether the Government should choose to reallocate mobile spectrum to existing license holders or engage in further spectrum auctions.

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

Licensed Band

Band Usage

 

31 May 2012

500 MHz

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

1800 MHz

Personal Communications Systems (PCS) - 2G mobile services

24 July 2015

2300 MHz

Multipoint Distribution (MDS) - Pay TV and wireless broadband

13 December 2015

3.4 GHz

Fixed Wireless Access - Pay TV and wireless broadband

17 June 2016

27 GHz

Broadband Wireless Access - Satellite up and down links

11 October 2017

2.1 GHz

3G Mobile Services

26 April 2021

20 GHz 

Defence satellite links

26 April 2021

30 GHz

Defence satellite links

Source: ACMA website as at 20 December 2007 (http://web.acma.gov.au/pls/radcom/spectrum_search.cat_listing)


Conroy seeks feedback on mobile spectrum auctions
 
 
 
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