Australia to Auction 700 MHz Licenses, No Dedicated Access for Public Safety
Monday, January 23, 2017 | Comments
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is inviting applications to participate in the April auction of spectrum licenses in the 700 MHz band that remained unsold following the 2013 digital dividend auction.

This spectrum band — made available after Australia switched from analog to digital TV — is valued for commercial mobile broadband services or 4G. It is expected that the spectrum will be used to provide high-speed mobile voice and data coverage to regional and metropolitan Australia.

The auction means Australian public-safety agencies will likely not get access to 700 MHz dedicated spectrum for Long Term Evolution (LTE) services. In 2015, 20 groups submitted comments to the Australian Productivity Commission study about the best way to provide Australia’s public-safety agencies with mobile broadband capability. Most submissions recommended the 700 MHz band be allocated for public-safety mobile broadband instead of 800 MHz frequencies.

The decision by the Australian government to auction the remaining 700 MHz spectrum is consistent with its November 2016 decision to accept the recommendation by the Australian Productivity Commission that the least-cost option to provide Australia’s public-safety agencies with a public-safety mobile broadband (PSMB) capability is to use a commercial carrier.

“This decision should increase competition between carriers for the spectrum auction knowing that they have the Australian public-safety agencies as potential locked-in customers needing access to LTE-based public-safety mobile services,” said Geoff Spring, senior industry advisor for the University of Melbourne’s Center for Disaster Management and Public Safety (CDMPS). “Perhaps this potential may even generate interest from Australia’s fixed carriers or even international interest given the attractiveness of a guaranteed government-supported customer base.

After years of inactivity, the Australian public-safety market is seeing signs of life with recent requests for interest in location-based services for the triple zero service and the provision of the emergency call person service, the national triple zero call answering service, as well as the decisions regarding the PSMB capability and the auction of the 700 MHz spectrum.

“This also leaves the door open for the Australian government to consider its future model and options for delivering a public-safety communications ecosystem based on lessons learned from the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) in the United States, the Emergency Services Network (ESN) in the United Kingdom and the SafeNet project in South Korea, as well as how next-generation call services are being treated in these countries,” Spring said.

More information on Australia’s 700 MHz auction is here.

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