The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has begun lobbying Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to reallocate regional 1800MHz spectrum for use with 4G LTE services.
Spectrum in the regional 1800MHz band is mostly used for fixed links and is subject to apparatus licensing.
Currently, there are some 700 licenses for point to point links in the 1800MHz band. ACMA figures from 2013 state that the vast majority, 85 per cent, are held by Telstra. BHP has four per cent of the fixed link licenses, and QR Networks 2.5 per cent.
But ACMA has argued that the increasing availability of LTE technology on 1800MHz had led to an increasing demand for such services in regional areas.
The spectrum band is already licensed and used extensively in Australia's major cities for LTE.
Existing 1800MHz license holders in metro areas would get priority access to regional spectrum only if Turnbull chose to set competition limits for the auction, an ACMA spokesperson said.
To date, no such competition limits have been set in previous auctions.
According to the ACMA's draft proposal, made public today, a total of 120MHz of bandwidth should be made available in regional areas.
The spectrum includes frequency bands in the 1725 to 1785MHz and 1820 to 1880MHz ranges.
No licenses have been issued in the regional 1800 band since 2011 after ACMA put an embargo on it.
ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said the current licensing agreements in the 1800MHz band were not able to accommodate potential future uses, such as delivery of mobile services to regional Australia.
Telcos, railway authorities and mining and energy companies are among those pushing for more 1800MHz spectrum in order to build 4G LTE networks and smart infrastructure across the country.
ACMA has published a discussion paper (DOC format) and is inviting comments on the draft recommmendation from apparatus licensees that might be affected by the auction as well as other stakeholders.
Comments on the reallocation recommendation must be in by March 11 this year.
ACMA is planning to auction off the regional 1800 spectrum in November this year.