Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has directed the communications regulator to issue licenses for the national broadband network in the 3.5 Ghz spectrum band to address a shortfall of spectrum in the outskirts of metropolitan areas affecting 80,000 premises.
A May review into NBN Co’s fixed wireless and satellite rollout identified a spectrum gap for homes and businesses in areas surrounding major cities. Optus owns the required 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz spectrum in the fringe around Canberra and the five mainland state capital cities, creating a gap in supply for the national network builder.
Moving the affected premises from fixed wireless to fixed line technology to address the shortfall would not be appropriate, as the areas would have to wait until late in the fixed-line rollout to receive services, which would additionally increase deployment costs to NBN Co, the review found.
The review suggested the Government work with the Australian Communications and Media Authority to study ways to secure sufficient spectrum to address the gap. Turnbull today said the regulator had identified the 3.5 GHz band as appropriate.
He issued an exposure draft of a directive to the ACMA which would see 3.5 Ghz spectrum in the affected areas used to address the gap and provide fixed wireless services to the 80,000 premises.
The proposed directive would require ACMA to take “all steps necessary” by April 30 next year to enable apparatus licenses to be issued to NBN Co in the 3.5 Ghz band.
NBN Co would pay a “market rate” for the spectrum, Turnbull said.
In the accompanying explanatory statement to the directive, he asked the ACMA to consider expert advice received by former Communications Minister Conroy which identified $0.03/MHz/population of a licence area as being appropriate for any licenses issues for the 3.4 GHz band.
Turnbull has previously put the cost of addressing the spectrum gap at $1.2 billion over the next seven years.
The Government has approached the public for submissions on its proposal, which will be reviewed until September 22.