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Federal Government foreshadows changes to spectrum pricing and allocation

Federal Government foreshadows changes to spectrum pricing and allocation

Report outlines recommended changes to improve Australia’s spectrum management framework

Federal communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Federal communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

The Federal Government has outlined changes to improve Australia’s spectrum management framework.

The government has released a report, prepared by the Department of Communications, on future directions for spectrum management, outlining recommended changes to improve Australia’s spectrum management framework.

The Spectrum Review Report highlights the need to simplify the current framework to remove prescriptive regulatory arrangements and to support the use of new and innovative technologies and services across the economy.

The report recommends simplifying processes for new and existing spectrum users and increasing opportunities for market-based arrangements, including spectrum sharing and trading.

A broad projection of the economic value of spectrum in Australia undertaken by the Centre for International Economics (CIE) suggests national benefits could be as high as $177 billion over a 15-year period.

In May 2014, federal communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said the aim of the review around spectrum policy arrangements was to ease the compliance burden on users and improve accessibility for new technologies.

"The efficient use of spectrum underpins the tablets, smartphones, televisions and radios Australians use every day," he said. "It is essential to critical public and community services, such as police and emergency services communications, defence services, air and marine safety and weather forecasting."

He said the spectrum framework was last formally reviewed by the Productivity Commission in 2002.

"This was two years before Google went public and five years before the first iPhone was released," he said. "Clearly, the world has changed and it is time to take a comprehensive look at whether Australia's spectrum policy and management framework remains fit for the digital age.

The Department of Communications will conduct the review in conjunction with the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

The Department will engage with stakeholders throughout the review and finalise the report to the Minister in six to nine months.

The three main recommendations are, firstly, to replace the current legislative arrangements with streamlined legislation that focuses on outcomes rather than process, for a simpler and more flexible framework.

The second major recommendation is to better integrate the management of public sector and broadcasting spectrum to improve the consistency and integrity of the framework.

And, thirdly, to review spectrum pricing to ensure consistent and transparent arrangements to support the efficient use of spectrum and secondary markets.

The legislative reforms would include establishing a single licensing system based on the parameters of the licence, including duration and renewal rights.

It would clarify the roles and responsibilities of the Minister and the ACMA and aim to provide for transparent and timely spectrum allocation and reallocation processes.

It would also provide more opportunities for spectrum users to participate in spectrum management, through delegation of functions and user driven dispute resolution.

There would be reforms to manage broadcasting spectrum in the same way as other spectrum, while recognising that the holders of broadcasting licences and the national broadcasters would be provided with certainty of access to spectrum to deliver broadcasting services.

It would streamline device supply schemes and improve compliance and enforcement by introducing proportionate and graduated enforcement mechanisms for breaches of either the law or licence conditions.

And lastly, it would aim to ensure that the rights of existing licence holders are not diminished in the transition to the new framework.

The report is the outcome of a review conducted by the Department of Communications in conjunction with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and included extensive stakeholder consultation.

The Government is currently considering the report and will prepare a response in due course. Stakeholder feedback on the report is welcomed.

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Tags Malcolm Turnbullfederal communications ministerSpectrum Review Reportspectrum management framework

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