The Government has announced its response to the Spectrum Review undertaken by the Department of Communications, in conjunction with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
The review is now complete and is available here. The Government has announced it will implement its recommendations in full. The three main recommendations are:
- Replace the current legislative arrangements with new legislation that removes prescriptive process and streamlines licensing, for a simpler and more flexible framework.
- .Better integrate the management of public sector and broadcasting spectrum to improve the consistency and integrity of the framework.
- Review spectrum pricing to ensure consistent and transparent arrangements to support the efficient use of spectrum and secondary markets.
“Spectrum is a critical enabler of Australia's current and future communications infrastructure,” said Turnbull announcing the release of the review’s recommendations. “But the legislative framework for managing spectrum in Australia has become outdated. Change is required to enable industry and consumers to make the most of the spectrum.”
He said implementing the review's recommendations will reduce the regulatory burden on spectrum users by making interactions with the framework, including allocation processes, simpler and faster.
“The reforms will put in place arrangements that can meet the future demands of spectrum users. The framework will be simpler, more efficient, flexible and sustainable to support new and innovative technologies and services while providing certainty of spectrum access rights for users.”
The Department of Communications says the economic benefits of spectrum reform will be substantial. It quotes a finding from a report by the Centre for International Economics that national benefits from spectrum reform could be as high as $177 billion over a 15 year period, “depending on the factors included.”
Wireless services support more efficient processes and delivery of existing services, enabling improvements in productivity, says the report. “The ACMA has estimated that mobile broadband increased Australia’s economic growth rate by 0.28% each year from 2007-13. This equates to an economic contribution of $33.8 billion by mobile broadband alone over this period, primarily through productivity improvements.
“In 2014, an Australian Radio Communications Industry Association study showed that the spectrum used for two-way radio generates economic benefits of between $1.99 billion and $3.72 billion per annum.”
The review’s terms of reference were to consider ways to:
- simplify the framework to reduce its complexity and impact on spectrum users and administrators, and eliminate unnecessary and excessive regulatory provisions.
- improve the flexibility of the framework and its ability to facilitate new and emerging services including advancements that offer greater potential for efficient spectrum use, while continuing to manage interference and providing certainty for incumbents.
- ensure efficient allocation, ongoing use and management of spectrum, and incentivise its efficient use by all commercial, public and community spectrum users.
- consider institutional arrangements and ensure an appropriate level of Ministerial oversight of spectrum policy and management, by identifying appropriate roles for the Minister, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the Department of Communications and others involved in spectrum management.
- promote consistency across legislation in relation to compliance mechanisms, technical regulation and the planning and licensing of spectrum.
- develop an appropriate framework to consider public interest spectrum issues.
- develop a whole-of-government approach to spectrum policy.
- develop a whole-of-economy approach to valuation of spectrum that includes consideration of the broader economic and social benefits.
The report says the recommended legislation will streamline regulatory processes and clarify the role of the Government and the ACMA. “It will also provide for greater use of market mechanisms and rationalise the number of licence categories, reform current highly prescriptive and lengthy allocation processes and device supply regulations.”
Tyeh Government's decisioon to implement the review's recommendation has been welcoems by industry bidies Communications Alliance (CA) and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), both of whome released statements to that effect.
The ACMA says it now expects to move to a single, streamlined and more flexible approach to radiocommunications licencing. “This is a win for industry and consumers,” said deputy chairman Richard Bean. “It provides a more responsive regulatory regime—rather than black letter law—that will take away unnecessary barriers, reducing delays and costs of getting new technologies to the market.
“As well as enabling the ACMA to quickly respond to technological advances, the changes will also widen the ACMA’s compliance options. It will provide us with a full range of compliance tools to respond to modern market structures.”