ACMA releases draft rules for spectrum auction

The draft rules address the legal and technical issues associated with the auction that's scheduled to take place in 2012-13

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) have issued a set of draft rules to govern the upcoming ‘Digital Dividend’ auction for the reallocation of Australia’s 700MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum.

The auction is scheduled to take place in 2012-13 and will use a combinatorial clock auction (CCA) format, a price clock-based format used to sell multiple items in one process.

“Over the past months, we have been actively engaging with stakeholders. I’m pleased that we have their buy-in on the approach we’re taking,” the ACMA digital transition division general manager, Giles Tanner, said in a statement.

The rules are made up of two parts, with one focusing on the allocation, which refers to all legal issues associated with the auction, describes the products up for auction and outlines the rules of the auction process itself. This includes how it will be advertised, entry fees, reserve prices, deposits and methods of payment for licences. It encompasses two marketing plans, one for both the 700MHz band and the 2.5GHz band, and an allocation determination.

“An allocation determination may also impose competition limits, to limit the aggregate amount of spectrum that can be allocated to a bidder,” an information paper from the ACMA reads. “However, such competition limits can only be imposed if the minister directs the ACMA to do so.”

The other side focuses on the technical rules that spectrum winners must adhere to when operating radiocommunication devices in the licensed spectrum band. This includes an unacceptable interference determination and radiocommunications advisory guidelines for each band.

The watchdog has called for industry comment on a number of proposed changes, specifically licence commencement and duration, the latter of which has at this stage been set at 15 years but is indicative of feedback.

“In the draft marketing plans, the ACMA proposes that, with the exception of licences solely for the metropolitan Perth region and/or the regional Western Australia region, which are likely to have a shorter duration, spectrum licences in both bands be issued for a 15-year period, with all licences within each band having a common expiry date.”

Communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has also advised the ACMA to impose competition limits or spectrum caps on the amount of spectrum that can be allocated to one bidder.

Bidders will be able to acquire a maximum of 20 MHz paired (40 MHz in total) in the 700 MHz band, and 40 MHz paired (80 MHz in total) in the 2.5 GHz band.

In February, the watchdog flagged its approach to the impending auction and noted the final auction rules would be released in July following formal consultation of the draft.

An ACMA hosted webinar will be held for stakeholders on 24 April for interested parties to ask questions about the draft rules and another discussion paper will be published in the second half of 2012, which will focus on licence commencement.

Submissions to the draft rules close on 9 May.

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