Although the Government is consulting on a rewrite of Australia’s Radiocommunications Act 1992 (see here), the work of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in spectrum management continues under the current framework. In this regard, in late June ACMA released a consultation package regarding the future use of the 3.6GHz spectrum band (3575-3700 MHz band) in Australia.

This consultation package follows on from consultation on an earlier discussion paper 'Future uses of the 1.5GHz and 3.6GHz bands' in late 2016. ACMA has determined to move to the preliminary re-planning stage for the 3.6GHz band, in priority to the 1.5GHz band, given the potential for the 3.6GHz band to be used in connection with delivery of 5G mobile broadband services.

Currently, the 3.6GHz band is used for satellite and regional fixed wireless services. Reflecting ACMA’s view of the future of 5G mobile broadband services, ACMA’s preferred option, as set out in the consultation package, is to establish arrangements optimised for wide-area broadband deployments (whether mobile or fixed) over the entire 125 MHz of the 3.6 GHz band available in metropolitan and regional areas. ACMA proposes that spectrum licences in the band would be allocated via auction. To allow for this to occur, the 3.6GHz spectrum band would need to be restacked, with ACMA proposing that a long adjustment period and other mitigation strategies are put in place to minimise the impact on incumbent users of this spectrum and to allow those users to continue to deliver their services.

Feedback is sought from stakeholders on the consultation package by 4 August 2017. This will allow ACMA to finalise its views on the optimal future uses of the 3.6GHz band. If, following consideration of submissions received in response to the consultation, ACMA determines that it will reallocate this spectrum, it will then commence the regulatory process to do so.