Government prepares to sell off 5G spectrum

WISPs to get shunted off premium spectrum

Australia’s telcos will be able to bid for 3.6GHz in an auction run by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), with the government announcing today it would push ahead with the sell-off of 125MHz of spectrum in the band.

The band includes prime spectrum for the rollout of 5G services (some of which will also rely on the higher frequency mmWave spectrum).

Last year the ACMA concluded a consultation on the future of the 3.6GHz band.

Auctioning off the spectrum will affect its current users, which include some satellite earth stations and point-to-multipoint users in regional areas, such as wireless Internet service providers (WISPs).

The move to sell of the spectrum has drawn particular ire from WISPs.

In a submission to the ACMA consultation on the issue, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association of Australia argued that “that the proposal to clear the band to make way for them [large telcos] is precipitous and unfair and is responding to pressure by the major Telcos - despite the lengthy timeline before the 5G standard is promulgated.”

“I have carefully considered the implications for regional Australians in making this decision, and the declaration provides protections for incumbent users in the band while ensuring Australia is well-positioned to take advantage of 5G technology in years to come,” said communications minister Senator Mitch Fifield.

An ACMA recommendation, backed by the government, will allow for a seven-year re-allocation period in regional Australia.

“This will allow incumbents, such as regional fixed wireless broadband operators, to continue to deliver services until the middle of next decade – and this could continue beyond the re-allocation period if agreed with a new spectrum licence holder,” Fifield said.

The minister said he is seeking advice from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on spectrum allocation limits.

The ACMA-run auction is likely to be staged in October.

Australia’s major telcos are preparing to launch 5G services. Telstra earlier this year launched its ‘5G Innovation Centre’ on the Gold Coast.

Optus is planning to launch a 5G-based fixed wireless service in early 2019.

Vodafone is also gearing up for 5G.