Turnbull seeks NBN spectrum fix

NBN Co would pick up much-needed spectrum to fill a gap in its fixed-wireless network coverage in Australia's metropolitan fringes under a draft ministerial direction released today.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has issued a draft direction that would see NBN Co gain access to much-needed spectrum in the 3.5GHz band for its fixed wireless network.

A review of NBN Co's fixed wireless and satellite roll-outs released in May found that NBN Co had originally overlooked additional 80,000 premises in the outer metro areas of Australia that will be covered by NBN Co's fixed-wireless long-term evolution (LTE) network, and the review said that NBN Co lacked access to sufficient spectrum in those areas in order to supply services to customers. NBN Co currently holds spectrum licences in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum bands, but not in those locations.

In a draft ministerial direction issued today, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has flagged that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has identified spectrum in the 3.5GHz spectrum band that would be appropriate for NBN Co to use in Australia's outer metro areas for the fixed wireless network, and has directed the ACMA to prepare apparatus licences for NBN Co to access the spectrum by April 30, 2015.

The ACMA has also been asked to determine the best price to charge NBN Co to access the spectrum, and Turnbull has asked the ACMA to consider that in 2012, former communications minister Stephen Conroy priced the spectrum at $0.03/MHz/population of a licence area. Turnbull indicated NBN Co would pay a "market rate" for the spectrum.

Submissions on the draft determination are open until September 22.