The Federal Government will reissue the current 15-year radio frequency spectrum licences used by telcos to provide 2G and 3G mobile phone and wireless services.
The licences are due to expire between 2013 and 2017, and will be offered to incumbents that are already using the spectrum to provide services to significant numbers of Australians, or who already have networks capable of doing so — provided they also meet the public interest criteria.
Discussions will soon begin regarding the renewals, but Conroy is also prepared to employ the stick if negotiations stall, saying the licences would be auctioned off if he was not satisfied a renewal was in the public interest.
“Wireless spectrum is a valuable public asset. Reissue of the 15-year spectrum licences will provide ongoing access to spectrum for current and next generation communications services," Conroy said in a statement.
The public interest criteria are based on a 2009 discussion paper released by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy:
- Promoting the highest value use for spectrum
- Investment and innovation;
- Consumer convenience
- Determining an appropriate rate of return to the community.
Each of the criterion is equally weighted but price will also play a key role.
"The Australian Government will seek a fee that reflects the scarcity and value of this important resource,” Conroy said.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) Spectrum will consider licences that are not being offered renewal. ACMA will also get new powers to help "manage and promote efficient use of spectrum", according to Conroy.
Subject to proposed legislative amendments, changes include:
- Re-planning in the 1800MHz band
- The introduction of coexistence to allow two or more wireless services to share; the same spectrum, subject to the development of provisions to mitigate unacceptable levels of interference
- Removal of legislative impediments currently preventing the ACMA from considering licence reissue until two years before licence expiry.