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ACMA seeks 4G in rural Australia through 1800 MHz rule changes

The majority of existing licences in the 1800 MHz band are for fixed rather than mobile services.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) wants to spur a greater number and variety of wireless services by changing spectrum licensing and regulatory arrangements for the 1800 MHz band in regional and remote Australia.

The ACMA suggested the changes in an issues paper released today (PDF). The changes proposed by ACMA would be temporary and eventually replaced by a longer-term solution, and the regulator is seeking comment from stakeholders, it said.

The ACMA said its “key proposal” is to “release the 1800 MHz band for [public telecommunications service (PTS)] apparatus licensing and facilitate the deployment by several industries of mobile services throughout regional and remote Australia.”

A PTS licence is a type of apparatus licence authorising services that consist of one or more stations operated to provide public telecommunications services.

Australian mobile operators use the 1800 MHz band for 4G LTE services.

“The 1800 MHz band is recognised by stakeholders as a band that could be immediately available and suitable for 4G technologies as they continue to evolve,” the ACMA said. “Spectrum in the 1800 MHz band will facilitate the deployment of LTE services in regional and remote Australia.”

State rail operators, mining companies and the energy sectors are all seeking to use LTE equipment on the 1800 MHz band, the ACMA said.

“Given the emerging demand from stakeholders and the technology evolution path, it is the ACMA’s view that the current arrangements in the 1800 MHz band in regional and remote areas of Australia do not allocate the spectrum to its highest value use.”

The majority of existing licences in the 1800 MHz band are for fixed rather than mobile services, the ACMA said. There are 700 fixed-service licences, including 85 per cent owned by Telstra, it said.

“The existing coordination arrangements in the 1800 MHz band are optimised for fixed services and are not flexible enough to allow for successful coexistence of mobile services,” the ACMA said.

“This is especially the case where the number of mobile services expected to be deployed in the band, resulting from the expected growth of machine-to-machine communications, are significant.”

The paper is the latest in a series of moves by the ACMA to provide more spectrum for mobile broadband.

The ACMA is separately reviewing regulations for spectrum in the 800 MHz band. In September, the agency released an updated Australian radiofrequency spectrum plan that proposed prioritising more spectrum for mobile broadband.

The ACMA will auction 700 MHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum this April in the Digital Dividend auction.

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Tags: 1800 MHz, regulatory, regulation, spectrum, wireless, Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), frequencies, mobile
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