Australia’s Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) has launched a consultation following a request by Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) for the exemption from the carrier licence requirements of the Telecommunications Act 1997. In publishing the consultation the DBCDE noted that APLNG, a joint-venture company established to supply gas from wells in central Queensland to a liquefied natural gas facility located on Curtis Island in the Port of Gladstone, is looking to enable its private telecommunications network in central Queensland to be used to support the supply of mobile telecommunications services to the public.
As per Section 42 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 networks can be constructed without the need for a carrier licence, provided services are not supplied to the general public. Meanwhile, Section 51 of the Act provides the communications minister with the power to determine that the licensing requirement under section 42 does not apply to a specified network unit, a specified person or a specified use of a network unit.
Under the proposal put forward by APLNG, the company aims to strike deals with mobile phone carriers so that the latter can install their own network units on APLNG’s infrastructure in order to boost mobile coverage in the region. With it also proposing that these mobile services be available to the public in the area, APLNG is looking to provide access to its telecommunications infrastructure, particularly its towers and backhaul capacity. However, because backhaul capacity is supplied using APLNG’s own network units and mobile carriers could use these to supply services to the public under the proposal, a carrier exemption is needed.
The DBCDE has proposed granting the exemption for ten years on the basis that it ‘may assist in improving the supply of mobile phone services to the public in the region’. It has, however, noted that the exemption would be subject to a condition that access to the infrastructure is available on an open-access basis to any carrier without charge. Interested parties have been given until 12 July 2013 to make submissions regarding the plans.