ACMA again favours the public carriers
The ACMA have advised that with the successful roll-out of the NBN that NBN Co have decided that some of their licensed spectrum in the major urban areas will not be required, and that this spectrum will be handed back to the ACMA for re-allocation.
ARCIA has been lobbying for this spectrum to be made available for Enterprise or Private LTE (PLTE) networks. The logic being that, as the spectrum can only be utilised in the major urban areas there will be potential for interference between the existing NBN CO wireless services in adjacent areas and the newly allocated LTE services in the major urban areas. It has been our proposal that by utilising the resumed spectrum for PLTE services the spectrum could be allocated on an apparatus licence basis and interference mitigated by correct allocation procedures.
The latest discussion paper from the ACMA—Planning for wireless broadband use of urban areas in the 3400-3475 MHz band – consultation 31/2021—shows the possible allocation options and includes both allocation for Wide Area Mobile Broadband (WA-WBB) and Local Area Mobile Broadband (LA-WBB). Of course, the WA-MBB is based on the public carriers, and it is disappointing (but not surprising) that the ACMA-preferred option favours the WA-WBB allocation option. It would appear that the ACMA Planners have no idea of the needs or potential for local area wireless broadband, and so see the ‘best public use’ of the spectrum as being with the public carriers.
ARCIA has been lobbying the ACMA and Department of Communications for many years to try to make the point that Private LTE is a viable market that at present cannot be properly evaluated as there is just no suitable spectrum in the high density market areas. In this discussion paper, the ACMA planners assume that PLTE can be allocated spectrum in the 26GHz band, but this is a poor result as at present there is very little equipment available in those bands and the cost of system installation is significantly higher than in the 3-4 GHz bands.
We really need to have multiple responses to this discussion paper arguing our case for this spectrum to be allocated for LA-WBB, basically Private LTE. It will give the market some reasonable spectrum to use in the major urban areas as well as make the allocation system easier and ameliorate the risk of interference to the adjacent NBN Co wireless broadband services.
It is time to challenge the mindset of the ACMA, wireless broadband has markets other than the public carriers and the ‘public benefit’ has to recognise other than pure cash returns from licensing spectrum.