Australia prepares for mmWave spectrum auction in early 2021

It comes just as the federal government has issued the reallocation of 2.4GHz spectrum in the 26GHz band.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The federal government has commenced proceedings to auction 2.4GHz of spectrum in the 26GHz band as part of the national rollout of 5G services.

It comes shortly after Communications Minister Paul Fletcher directed the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to prepare for the reallocation of 2.4GHz of millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum in the 26GHz band, which includes 25.1GHz to 27GHz.

"The Morrison government is allocating this spectrum to support a number of important communications policy objectives, including the rapid deployment of 5G technologies, the promotion of competitive market outcomes, and encouraging investment in infrastructure across both metropolitan and regional Australia," he said.

Fletcher added that when 5G is rolled out, it would support a range of current and future use cases, including streaming ultra-high definition video, teleworking from regional centres, and autonomous vehicles.

To evaluate the potential co-existence between NBN's Sky Muster satellite services and 5G mobile broadband services in the 27 to 27.5GHz frequency range, the federal government commissioned Plum to a produce an independent report.

The report concluded that the reallocation of spectrum in the 26GHz band would have minimal impact on the NBN Sky Muster satellite services.

"The study concludes that the risk of interference is insignificant and that the mitigating licence conditions proposed by ACMA are appropriate," the report said.

See also: ACCC questions fairness of NBN basic pricing  

The conclusion matches the same findings by the ACMA that found there is no risk of interference to the satellite uplinks from new terrestrial services, despite the NBN undertaking a separate analysis which had indicated that such interference is possible, the report said.

Fletcher has written to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) seeking advice on allocation limits ahead of the auction, which is scheduled for early 2021. 

The auction will be the first opportunity Australian telcos will be able to access mmWave spectrum.

At the end of last year, the ACMA auctioned off 125Mhz of spectrum in the 3.6GHz band.

In total, Telstra paid AU$386,008,400 for 143 lots; the TPG-Vodafone Australia joint venture Mobile JV paid the next most, at AU$263,283,800 for 131 lots; Optus paid AU$185,069,100 for 47 lots; and Dense Air Australia paid AU$18,492,000 for 29 lots.

The ACMA made AU$853 million from the spectrum auction, the equivalent of around AU$0.29/MHz/pop.

In July, a study of of 43 devices conducted by Enex for the ACMA showed how 5GHz Wi-Fi outperformed 2.4GHz in long-range testing, negating a major reason to continue using the slower 2.4GHz band.

"The 2.4GHz band is often promoted as a better choice for longer range communications," Enex said in its report. "However, Enex's findings did not support this. Operating in the 5GHz band appears to be the best choice for consumers under all circumstances."

"The 5GHz band also has the benefit of more recent technology developments which includes features such as directional beamforming and MU/MIMO (with up to eight antennas and multiuser sub-channels)."

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