Wireless Internet Services Providers Association of Australia (WISPAU) has called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the auction process for spectrum in the 3.6GHz band.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is currently auctioning off 125MHz of spectrum in the extended 3.6GHz band for use in 5G mobile services, with Telstra, Optus and a TPG-Vodafone consortium (formed concurrently with their merger announcement) expected to bid, subject to competition limits set by the government.
The spectrum is currently used by satellite earth stations as well as wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) in regional areas; a seven-year transition period would see those users migrated to another spectrum band.
WISPAU has pushed for a shared spectrum model in regional areas.
“The current concept of wide area spectrum licences, under which Australian spectrum management has laboured for nearly 30 years is old and arguably lazy thinking and is ripe for change,” the organisation argued in its submission to a 2017 ACMA consultation on the 3.6GHz band.
“A tipping point has been reached. As a finite resource the need for a flexible and dynamic sharing system is inevitable – this band proposal, coupled with the long lead time for 5G standards presents as an ideal opportunity to seize and implement transformational change.”
The ACMA in an October 2017 paper said that it had “given thought to the possibility of using some form of dynamic spectrum access-based sharing in the band” but “does not believe practical sharing models will provide the required certainty of long-term access to wide-area broadband users while simultaneously offering the desired certainty to current and new point-to-multipoint users that they state is required”.
“The spectrum sale is purely about selling out farmers and rural businesses to reduce the Government’s debt, and protecting an NBN monopoly from 5G competition,” WISP-AU president Dainen Keogh argued in a statement. “There is little other strategy behind this.”
He called for the government to reverse course on the decision “before these long-term effects are felt by regional and coastal Australia” and “before regional and coastal Australia wears the expected job losses, higher Internet costs and further digital divide between the city and country.”
WISPAU says it has more than 50 members that between them connect more than 200,000 premises.