Turnbull earmarks 3.5GHz band for NBN fixed wireless

Spectrum to be used for areas surrounding major cities

The National Broadband Network (NBN) would get access to 3.5GHz spectrum for fixed wireless services under a draft direction issued by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The draft direction “will help the Government meet its commitment to roll out very fast broadband to all Australians, as soon as possible,” Turnbull said in a statement today.

“NBN Co currently holds spectrum licenses for fixed wireless broadband services in regional areas; however there is a spectrum gap for homes and businesses in areas surrounding major cities,” Turnbull said.

“The draft Direction works to provide the NBN with the spectrum it needs for fixed wireless services in these areas.”

If enacted, the Australian Communications and Media Authority would be required to complete by 30 April 2015 all steps necessary to prepare the 3.5GHz band for use in the NBN. NBN Co would have to pay market rate for the spectrum.

The ACMA had recommended NBN use of area-wide apparatus licences within the 3.5GHz band after NBN Co in May released its Fixed Wireless and Satellite Review.

That review noted that "NBN Co has access to two spectrum bands, 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz in much of regional and remote Australia. NBN Co holds up to 98MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz band – which is used for the NBN Co TD-LTE fixed wireless access network – and up to 100MHz in the 3.4GHz band, which is currently unutilised."

NBN Co purchased 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum licences from AUSTAR in February 2011. In July that year it picked up further licences for 2.3GHz at auction.

"NBN Co recently accepted an offer from the ACMA to re-issue its 2.3GHz spectrum licences through to July 2030 at a cost of $22.6 million. Spectrum licences in the 3.4GHz band are due to expire in December 2015," the review stated.

"Although NBN Co has sufficient bandwidth for its products, currently it does not hold spectrum for approximately 320 of the 2,400 fixed wireless sites initially scoped as required... The spectrum gap affects around 80,000 premises."

The Department of Communications has invited public submissions on the plan until 22 September 2014.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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Tags mobilitynational broadband networkspectrumDepartment of CommunicationswirelessgovernmentAustralian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)mobileNBNbroadbandMalcolm Turnbull

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