Australia’s communications minister launches consultation on NBN spectrum gap draft Direction

21 Aug 2014

Australia’s Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, has released an exposure draft of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) (3.5GHz frequency band) Direction 2014 for public consultation. With this draft Direction related to the use of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band, it reportedly aims to help the state meet its commitment to roll out superfast broadband to all Australians, as soon as possible.

While NBN Co, the company overseeing the National Broadband Network (NBN) project, currently holds spectrum licenses for fixed wireless broadband services in regional areas, the draft direction notes that there is a spectrum gap for homes and businesses in areas surrounding major cities. As such it seeks to provide the NBN with the spectrum required to deliver fixed wireless services in these areas, so that it can reach approximately 80,000 homes and businesses located in the affected areas ‘as quickly as possible and at a reasonable cost to taxpayers’. As per the Direction, NBN Co will pay a market rate for the spectrum in question and, if enacted, the ACMA would be required to complete all steps necessary to enable apparatus licences of a type appropriate for use for the NBN to be issued in the 3.5 GHz band by 30 April 2015. Further, the regulator would also be required to take into account the government’s communications policy objectives when deciding whether to issue an apparatus licence for this spectrum.

Submissions regarding the draft direction must be submitted by 22 September 2014.

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