ACMA updates Australian spectrum plan

The government has proposed prioritising more spectrum for mobile broadband in an updated Australian radiofrequency spectrum plan. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is seeking comment on the plan, which will go into effect on 1 January.

The ACMA releases the spectrum plan every three to four years; the current plan came into effect 1 January 2009. The document divides spectrum into frequency bands and specifies general purposes for each band. The updated plan “reflects changes in international law, domestic practice, and policy direction that have occurred since publication of the 2009 version or which are currently proposed,” the ACMA wrote in the a discussion paper released today.

In the updated plan, the ACMA has proposed to change the status of mobile services in the 3400-3600MHz band to “primary” from “secondary”. That change would enable the band to be used by mobile operators for LTE and WiMAX mobile broadband.

“The majority of services currently operating in the band are fixed services providing broadband and other wireless-access services,” the ACMA said. “However, national and international analysis suggests there is increasing interest in using the band for mobile services.

“In Australia a number of operators have expressed interest in or intention to deploy LTE or WiMAX systems in the band.

“The ACMA believes changing the status of mobile to a primary service would facilitate the deployment of next-generation mobile technologies in this band. Such a change would give operators additional spectrum options in which to deploy mobile services and greater flexibility in what type of system to deploy in the band.”

In addition, the new spectrum plan would allow public safety agencies and emergency responders to use the 4.9GHz band. That band is currently reserved for the Department of Defence.

The updated plan also includes a footnote on the need to review the 400MHz band. The band is “one of the most important and heavily used parts of the spectrum,” the ACMA said. “More efficient and effective use of this band is important to Australia’s future, but there is evidence that congestion and fragmentation of use is impacting it adversely. Parts of the band are heavily congested in the major cities, while government use tends to be fragmented and uncoordinated.”

The ACMA is eying the 400MHz band for interoperable government wireless communications, it said. “There is a need to identify an adequately-dimensioned harmonised band for the government’s exclusive use to assist in interoperability objectives and the development of efficient government radiocommunications networks.

“By identifying the same spectrum Australia-wide for government users and encouraging the use of the same equipment, users will be able to communicate regardless of which agency or jurisdiction they are from.”

The ACMA is seeking comment on the updated plan by 26 October.

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