The federal government has released its policy objectives for the allocation of the 850 and 900 megahertz (MHz) spectrum bands.
The government aims to support the deployment of 4G and 5G technologies, promote market competition, encourage investment in telco infrastructure across Australia, support continuity of services and support a national Public Safety Mobile Broadband (PSMB) capability.
The 850 and 900 MHz bands are lower-band spectrum that is more widely available across Australia, including regional areas. The first spectrum band made available for 5G is the 3.6 gigahertz (GHz) band, with the 26 GHz band to follow in early 2021.
While the 850 and 900 MHz bands are not currently optimised for either 4G and 5G services, the government said a reconfiguration can support their deployment and more efficient use of the spectrum, and therefore reach more Australians in regional areas.
The expansion of the 850 MHz band has also been identified as a possible candidate to support a future public safety mobile broadband (PSMB) capability. PSMBs help public safety agencies maintain safety.
Communications minister Paul Fletcher said spectrum “is a highly valued yet finite resource” and requires appropriate policy settings to guide decision making and maximise the use of the bands.
“Spectrum is a critical resource that underpins the telco services we rely on every day. These policy objectives will inform discussions with industry and guide upcoming decisions on the allocation of these bands, so they can deliver the services Australians need,” Fletcher said.
“It’s important that we get the policy settings right to balance existing uses of the spectrum, such as 3G and 4G services, whilst promoting competition and new technologies, such as 5G, for the benefit of all Australians.”
The policy objectives come following a December 2019 proposal from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to make more spectrum available in the 850 MHz expansion band and improve the use of spectrum in the 900 MHz band.
The ACMA is also set to start consulting with industry, including incumbents, on the reallocation of the band, using the new policy objectives as a guide.
The auction for the 850 and 900 MHz bands are expected to begin in late 2021.