ACMA allocates additional spectrum for mobile broadband, M2M

The 803-960MHz band will be used for mobile broadband and M2M services, among others, with compliance due between June 2018 and June 2024.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has announced what it intends to do with spectrum in the 803-960MHz frequency band, with mobile broadband and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications usages being included in the plan.

The 803-960MHz spectrum is currently used for fixed links, trunked land mobile services, sound outside broadcast, and studio-to-transmitter links, with consumer devices also operating within the 915-928MHz band under Low Interference Potential Devices (LIPD) class licences. The 803-820MHz spectrum band was also formerly used for analogue television.

Following the ACMA's review of the band, kicked off in November, the government agency has decided to use the spectrum to identify additional mobile broadband spectrum; identify spectrum to support low-power, low-duty cycle communications for various M2M services including smart metering; make new frequency arrangements and bandwidth allocations for trunked land mobile services (TLMS); and determine new frequency arrangements for single and two-frequency fixed links, such as modifying bandwidth allocations and frequency duplex splits.

The ACMA also aims to undertake a general defragmentation of the 800MHz spectrum band in order to increase efficiency and reduce complexity by "simplifying fixed link sub-types and associated licensing and assignment instructions".

The ACMA has published a transition timeline outlining the compliance dates for each stage, with the first milestone marked for June 2018 and all arrangements to be in place by June 2024.

In November, the ACMA had announced its long-term plans out to 2020 for spectrum in the 803-960MHz band, also updating its five-year outlook on spectrum usage in the face of increasing usage of mobile data.

The government agency in December released a set of proposed changes to spectrum regulations aimed at providing easier access for M2M operators utilising spectrum for the Internet of Things (IoT), with outgoing ACMA chairman Chris Chapman in February saying that M2M spectrum allocation and management is a key issue, along with a move towards the IoT and continuing allocation for 4G services.

Last month, Christopher Hose, executive manager of the ACMA Spectrum Planning Branch, added that the spectrum review currently being undertaken by the federal government is "a massive opportunity to reset the framework".

"The spectrum review provides the mandate for the encouragement and the requirement for us to have a good look at this spectrum planning and frameworks that have evolved over the past 20 years or so," Hose explained in July.

The spectrum review is examining whether to overhaul the legislation, licensing, and pricing of spectrum, with Australian Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield saying the old legislation was so outdated as to be rendered "redundant".

The ACMA last month also provided an update on its IoT planning program, with Nevio Marinelli, manager of the ACMA's Spectrum Planning Section, saying IoT is at the "top of the hype cycle".

"Our role is to examine the adequacy of spectrum arrangements for the Internet of Things. There's a huge diversity of users and uses; we believe there's no one simple solution to spectrum access through all these applications," Marinelli said.

"IoT is turning towards requiring access to a range of different bands, and a range of access protocols, from dedicated spectrum to common spectrum, and options in between. In many cases, there's already radio frequency spectrum available for the use of IoT applications. These applications can and are being deployed in a range of bands within the existing regulatory framework by existing licensees or in cooperation with existing licensees."

The ACMA had previously argued in favour of a default spectrum band for all IoT devices across the globe, or, alternatively, sensors that can identify which country a device is operating in.

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