Competition issues in upcoming 5G spectrum allocation

The ACCC is seeking feedback on any competition issues associated with an upcoming spectrum allocation which will impact rollout of 5G services across the Australian economy.

The ACCC has been asked to advise the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, on whether limits should be imposed in the auction in order to protect and promote competition and, if so, how those limits should be applied.

Australia’s auction of the 26 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum band will take place in early 2021, run by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The 26 GHz spectrum band is expected to enable the launch of a range of innovative new services using 5G technology, particularly by boosting the capability of the Internet of Things. It is regarded as a “pioneer band” for 5G in the high-band or mmWave range.

“5G spectrum will allow for technological innovation across a variety of sectors, for example in mining, agriculture and manufacturing. It could also provide many benefits to small businesses and consumers in cities and regional towns across Australia,” ACCC Commissioner Cristina Cifuentes said.

“It’s important that this spectrum is allocated in an economically efficient way, to support the deployment of cutting-edge 5G technologies. But it’s also important to promote competition among spectrum users, for the long-term benefit of businesses and consumers.”

“As we consider how this should be done, we want to hear from a range of industry and other stakeholders who have an interest in how this spectrum is allocated and used, including from organisations outside the telco sector,” Ms Cifuentes said.

The ACCC is seeking views on the likely demand for the 26 GHz spectrum licences, the potential uses for the spectrum, the markets where this spectrum will be used, and any competition issues associated with how this spectrum is allocated.

It is also seeking feedback on potential competition issues associated with the allocation of licences for spectrum in the wider 26-28 GHz band.

In developing its advice to the Minister, the ACCC will take into account the Government’s Communications Policy Objectives for the Allocation of the 26 GHz band and will work closely with the ACMA.

The ACCC is inviting submissions from interested parties by 27 March 2020.

The Minister has asked for the ACCC’s advice by mid-May 2020.

The consultation paper is available at Spectrum Competition Limits

Background

Under the Radiocommunications Act 1992, the Minister for Communications may direct the ACMA to develop procedures to impose allocation limits (also known as competition limits) on the sale of spectrum licences. In making such a direction, the Minister may seek the ACCC’s advice on the allocation limits that should apply.

On 25 October 2019, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, on advice from the ACMA, announced the allocation of spectrum licences in the 26 GHz band by auction.

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