Australian government releases outline for 5G allocation of 850MHz and 900MHz in 2021

Existing users will need to be reallocated spectrum to cater for low-band 5G.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The Australian government has laid out its policy outline to reallocate 850MHz and 900MHz for 5G services.

Late last year, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) put forward its plan to make more spectrum in the 850MHz and 900MHz bands available for 5G services. That process is intended to culminate via a "market-based process in Q4 2021".

In a document released on Monday, the government said the 850MHz and 900MHz bands are not optimised for LTE or 5G services.

"The 3.6GHz band was the first band made available in Australia for the deployment of 5G services, with spectrum licences allocated in December 2018. The 26GHz band will follow, with an allocation planned in early 2021," it said.

"A reconfiguration will support the deployment of 4G and 5G networks and support more efficient use of the spectrum. Lower-band spectrum, such as the 850 and 900MHz bands, is important for broader 4G and 5G coverage, including in regional Australia, and will complement holdings of 5G-suitable mid and high-band spectrum."

The government said it would work to "promote" continuity of services that need to be shifted out of the bands, and would look to minimise the impacts of such a shift.

"A reconfiguration of the bands can deliver greater capacity for wireless services and support carriers to deploy 4G and 5G wireless broadband services, improving the quality of services for existing customers," it said.

Potentially, the 850Mhz could be used for public safety mobile broadband for emergency services.

Also see: First responder tech: New tools for the front lines (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Reserving any spectrum in that band would need agreement with Australia's states and territories. In 2018, the Council of Australian Governments agreed to a roadmap for a national public safety mobile broadband network.

"Spectrum is a critical resource that underpins the telco services we rely on every day. These policy objectives will inform discussions with industry and guide upcoming decisions on the allocation of these bands, so they can deliver the services Australians need," Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said.

"It's important that we get the policy settings right to balance existing uses of the spectrum, such as 3G and 4G services, whilst promoting competition and new technologies, such as 5G, for the benefit of all Australians."

Fletcher added that ACMA would soon begin its formal consultations to reallocate the bands.

Over the weekend, Fletcher announced the government has worked with the nation's telcos on a three-month trial to block scam calls spoofing legitimate Australian Taxation Office (ATO) numbers as caller ID.

"This trial has been highly successful in blocking spoof calls from specified ATO numbers," Fletcher said.

"While it will not stop scammers randomly ringing Australians pretending to be from the ATO, it will stop specific ATO numbers appearing in the [caller line identification] display on the recipient's phone, thus making the scam seem much less convincing."

Minister for Housing and Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said that if Australians were in any doubt about the authenticity of a call, they should hang up and call the ATO directly.

"If you are not sure that an ATO interaction is genuine, don't reply to it and phone 1800 008 540," he said.

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