Australia - Mobile Communications - Spectrum Overview


The use of radio frequency spectrum provides a diverse range of telephony services. Voice and data services are delivered via equipment based on a range of technological standards and utilising radio resources in a number of spectrum bands. Potential users of the spectrum have conflicting requirements, and not all of these are accommodated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Greater spectral efficiency has been gained through digitalisation and technological improvements, along with increased use of interference mitigation techniques to facilitate spectrum reuse. Internationally, mobile broadband and data services have been boosted by the release of spectrum in the 700MHz bands as countries switch from analogue to digital broadcasting. In Australia, part of this ‘digital dividend’ spectrum, between 694MHz and 820MHz, was auctioned in 2013, and the main licence winners Telstra and Optus have been able to make use of the concessions since January 2015.

In addition, the ACMA completed the auction of spectrum in the 1800MHz band in February 2016. These licences are aimed at accommodating LTE in regional areas and satisfying continuing demand for high-end mobile data services.

The ACMA in 2016 also detailed proposals to licence spectrum in a number of other bands, and to continue to reconfigure existing spectrum to facilitate services in a bid to keep pace with data demand and to prepare the market for services based on 5G technologies.

This report assesses radio spectrum used for wireless and mobile telephony services in Australia. It details spectrum ownership and usage by network operators, and reviews regulatory developments with respect to services using radio spectrum based on GSM, WiMAX and Ultra-Wideband technologies. BuddeComm covers spectrum auctions and older developments in our other reports.

Key developments

ACMA reforms spectrum allocation in the 800-900MHz band; auction for 1800MHz spectrum concluded; ACMA issues 2016-20 spectrum outlook report; Telstra closes 2G network, to be followed by Optus and Vodafone later in 2017; additional spectrum bands considered for mobile broadband use; report contains details on planning, sharing, re-farming, licensing.

Companies mentioned in this report:

Telstra, Optus, AUSTAR, unwired, vividwireless, NBC, VHA.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Synopsis
  • 2. Overview
  • 3. Spectrum regulations
    • 3.1 Background information
    • 3.2 Australian Radiofrequency Plan
  • 4. ACMA five-year outlook – 2016 - 2020
    • 4.1 Spectrum demand overview
      • 4.1.1 700MHz band spectrum
      • 4.1.2 2.5GHz band spectrum
      • 4.1.3 800-900MHz spectrum review
      • 4.1.4 Additional spectrum – 5G
    • 4.2 Towards 2020 – Future spectrum requirements
      • 4.2.1 Spectrum shortage
      • 4.2.2 1800MHz auction developments
    • 4.3 Regulatory issues
    • 4.4 Fifteen-year spectrum licence pathway
    • 4.5 Improving spectrum trading arrangements
  • 5. Spectrum-based services
    • 5.1 Mobile services
      • 5.1.1 Background information
      • 5.1.2 LTE services
    • 5.2 WiMAX wireless services
      • 5.2.1 Overview of networks
      • 5.2.2 National Broadband Network (NBN) fixed-wireless services
    • 5.3 Ultra-Wideband services (UWB)
    • 5.4 New broadband wireless technology
  • 6. Spectrum ownership and licences
    • 6.1 Mobile spectrum
    • 6.2 Apparatus licences
    • 6.3 Unlicensed spectrum (IMS)
  • 7. Related reports
  • Exhibit 4 – Expiring spectrum allocation timetable – 2015 - 2028
  • Exhibit 1 – 700MHz reallocation – 2011 - 2014
  • Exhibit 2 – Digital dividend spectrum
  • Exhibit 3 – Proposed 2.5GHz reallocation – 2011 - 2016
  • Exhibit 5 – Allocations for wireless access services (WAS)
  • Exhibit 6 – Mobile spectrum by operator in capital city and regional area
  • Exhibit 7 – GSM services by operator
  • Exhibit 8 – WCDMA services by operator
  • Exhibit 9 – Ownership of selected frequencies for 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz services

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