ACMA releases discussion paper on the future use of Australian airwaves


The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released a public discussion paper inviting stakeholders to contribute to the future use of Australia’s spectrum – the radio frequencies that facilitate telecommunications over public airwaves, including for mobile phone and internet services.

Many of the current 20-year spectrum licences issued to Australia’s major telcos are set to expire between 2028 and 2032.

This is the first time ACMA has been responsible for considering the future of these licences that, under law, may be renewed, partially renewed or refused to be renewed.

ACMA’s paper seeks information from incumbents on their current and future use of this spectrum and from potential new users on alternative uses.

In addition, it is seeking views on the use of licence conditions that may improve efficiency and coverage to the benefit of all Australians.

ACMA authority member and spectrum lead Adam Suckling says radio waves are a finite public resource that the ACMA manages with the aim of delivering the most effective social, technological and economic outcomes.

“Given the critical importance of spectrum usage to industry, the economy and the public, we are starting the process now – well in advance of the expiry dates.”

“We are talking about very high value spectrum, ideal for facilitating 5G mobile internet and even 6G as we look ahead over the next decade and beyond.”

“We recognise that this is not a ‘greenfields’ exercise with the use of some frequency bands for a particular service, such as wireless broadband, not in contention. However, with around three-quarters of long-term spectrum licences expiring, it is timely to consider whether there is potential to enhance competition and provide more choice for consumers.”

“These licences will significantly shape the future of Australia’s telecommunications landscape, so it’s important we include as many views in the decision-making process as we can.”

ACMA will release its preliminary views on long-term options for the relevant spectrum in late 2024.

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