ACMA wants single 2012 spectrum auction

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is looking to hold a single national auction for the 700MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum at the end of 2012.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is looking to hold a single national auction for the 700MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum at the end of 2012.

Speaking at the ACMA RadComms conference in Sydney this morning, ACMA's general manager of digital transition Giles Tanner announced the release of two draft spectrum re-allocation recommendations that the minister designates the spectrum for re-allocation in 2012.

"There are a few key reasons behind our decision to auction the two bands together. There are clear complementarity between the bands. Both bands are suitable for providing LTE [Long Term Evolution] services," Tanner said.

"Spectrum in the 700MHz band can provide coverage over a wide area and with high building penetration. The 2.5 GHz band, on the other hand, is suited to providing high data capacity in more densely populated, high demand areas," he added. "This means that from here, the allocation processes for the two bands will be aligned.

"Rather than working towards two auctions, we will be working towards one auction with two products on offer."

However, if there is a delay in the auction of one of the bands, this would not affect the timing of the auction of the other, he said.

ACMA has recommended that two 45MHz blocks in the 700Mhz band be re-allocated, and has paired the blocks in a way that will enable telecommunications providers to use Frequency-Division Duplexing technology, used in some LTE deployments.

This re-allocation will be nationwide except for a small portion of Western Australia, where radio astronomy technologies are being developed as a part of Australia's bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The re-allocation is proposed to begin from 2 November 2011 until 31 December 2014.

For the 2.5GHz spectrum band, which is currently used for electronic news gathering (ENG), two 70MHz spectrum blocks will be re-allocated, separated by a 50MHz block that will be retained for ENG use.

"The ACMA has previously found that unless some 2.5GHz spectrum is retained, ENG services will not be able to replicate all of their current functionality using the new identified bands," Tanner said.

This re-allocation will also be national starting from 2 November 2011 to 30 September 2014, apart from Perth. Perth's re-allocation will not be until January 2016, as ACMA determined that Perth required the spectrum for ENG until that time.

The spectrum is expected to be hotly contested by telco providers seeking spectrum for LTE services, and is expected to rake in over $1 billion at auction for the government. Emergency services are also lobbying the government to allocate 20MHz of the 700MHz spectrum to dedicated emergency radio networks for police, fire and other emergency services.

ACMA is calling for comment on the draft recommendations and is planning on giving the final recommendations to the minister in August.

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