05 Feb 2010
Just two weeks into 2010, the Australian regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy published two separate discussion papers on the award of the 2.5GHz and digital dividend spectrum bands. ACMA’s preferred plan is to auction 140MHz of the 2.5GHz band, which is currently primarily used by free-to-air TV broadcasters, for wireless broadband services. At the same time, the government is also considering making the digital dividend available for wireless broadband once the analogue TV signal is switched off in 2013. This is a positive move that will ease the increasing demand for spectrum for mobile broadband and LTE rollout in Australia.
The proposals are in line with emerging international approaches
Both the digital dividend and frequencies in the 2.5GHz band are expected to be used for wireless broadband services, and ACMA looks set to harmonize its spectrum allocation principles with those of other developed markets. The 2.5GHz band has already been identified, and in some cases allocated, for mobile use in Europe (Norway, Sweden and Finland), Asia (New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan), and the US. Harmonization will facilitate greater economies of scale for the manufacturing of equipment and devices for the 2.5GHz band, which will result in reduced costs for operators and consumers.
The government is also seeking to unlock a similarly large amount of spectrum for mobile use from the digital dividend, as already seen in the US (108MHz) and the UK (128MHz), and outlined in its ‘digital dividend green paper’. Although the final size of the dividend is still being discussed, there is approximately 126MHz of spectrum in the upper UHF band (694–820MHz) that will potential be freed up once the analogue TV signal is switched off. Again, we expect ACMA to follow other major developed economies and maximize the benefits associated with the digital dividend by releasing the spectrum for mobile services. (For further details, see our report The digital dividend: an overview of national policies.)