ACMA reveals plans to reallocate 3.6 GHz band for 5G

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has issued a consultation package on its plan to make the 3.6 GHz band – which is already being used by satellite operators – available for terrestrial 5G usage.

The consultation papers identify a range of possible re-planning options to make the 3.6 GHz band (3575-3700 MHz) available in metropolitan and regional areas for new services, while also recognizing that there are existing services and licensees using these frequencies that want to continue operating. The papers propose various mitigation measures to reduce the effects of any change on incumbents in the band, including unusually lengthy adjustment periods.

“We have identified spectrum in the 5.6 GHz band that may be made available for point-to-multipoint users including wireless ISPs to grow their businesses into the future,” said ACMA acting chairman Richard Bean. “We are also investigating the establishment of ‘Earth station protection zones’ to aid ongoing long-term use of the 3.6 GHz band by satellite services.”

The consultation package follows an initial discussion paper released in October 2016 that sought industry feedback on the ACMA’s medium and longer-term planning approaches to address rising demand for mobile broadband services in the 1.5 and 3.6 GHz bands. The new package is based on the responses received regarding the first paper.

The ACMA said that it has decided to prioritize consideration on the 3.6 GHz band over the 1.5 GHz band, “given international developments and strong domestic interest.”

Bean said a more timely resolution of what, if any, re-planning would occur in the 3.6 GHz band would provide certainty to incumbent services regarding long term arrangements in the band and any alternative options available to them.

He also emphasized the importance of ensuring that Australian telcos have as much spectrum available as possible to take advantage of the emergence of 5G technologies.

The ACMA will be seeking public comment on the options for the future use of the 3.6 GHz band here until August 4, 2017.

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