ACMA unveils proposals for digital dividend auction

11 Apr 2012

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has published draft rules for the digital dividend spectrum auction. The proposals are made up of two core elements, with the first of those being the allocation instruments, which will provide the legal basis for the auction, including confirming what spectrum will be made available and setting out the rules for how the auction will be conducted. The allocation determination seeks to ‘explicitly set out the procedures by which spectrum licences in the 700MHz and 2.5GHz bands will be allocated by auction’, while the processes outlined by the regulator in the proposals ‘cover all parts of the allocation process, including application, registration of bidders, withdrawal of applications, payment of fees and spectrum access charges, rules and requirements for participating in the auction and other matters’. In addition, the ACMA also notes that there will be two marketing plans as part of the allocation instruments, one for frequencies in the 700MHz band and one for 2.5GHz spectrum.

As part of the proposals it has been revealed that the communications minister Stephen Conroy has directed the ACMA to impose limits on the total amount of spectrum that any one entity can acquire in the auction process. Under the draft recommendations, the regulator has stipulated that would-be bidders will be able to acquire no more than 20MHz paired spectrum in the 700MHz band, and no more than 40MHz paired spectrum in the 2.5GHz band.

Meanwhile, the technical instruments will set out the technical rules that the spectrum winner(s) must abide by when using any frequencies won in the proposed sale, and these include unacceptable interference guidelines for each band.

Interested parties have been given until 9 May 2012 to submit their response to the proposals, following which the ACMA has said it expects to publish another discussion paper in 2Q 2012 which will focus on matters of licence commencement, including when the frequencies will actually be made available. Commenting on the development, Giles Tanners, general manager of the ACMA’s Digital Transition Division, noted: ‘Publishing the draft rules is a key milestone for the ACMA in preparing for the auction … Over the past months, we have been actively engaging with stakeholders—I’m pleased that we have their buy-in on the approach we’re taking.’

Alongside the draft rules for the digital dividend auction, the ACMA has also published a consultation paper entitled ‘Proposed updates to the spectrum licence framework’, which it says sets out the proposed changes to update and simplify the conditions applying to 15-year spectrum licences. The revisions, it notes, are intended to apply to all spectrum licences issued from 2012 onwards, including those concessions expected to be awarded in the digital dividend auction.