The 9 cm band is safe, for now
Use of the 3400-3600 MHz band, including Amateur access, will remain ‘business as usual’ for the time being.
Roger Harrison - VK2ZRH
This has been the fortuitous outcome following the recent consultation on future arrangements in the band, conducted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
The consultation process began when the ACMA released a discussion paper, Transitioning the 3.5 GHz band for future opportunities, on 18 June 2014. The ACMA sought to identify licensing arrangements in the band that might “. . . maximise regulatory flexibility for both licensees and the ACMA”. The 3400-3600 MHz band had a mix of Apparatus and Spectrum licensees at the time, and the ACMA proposed extending Apparatus licensing across the band for the future.
Responses to the discussion paper closed on 30 July, the ACMA receiving 24 submissions. Eight were from individual amateurs along with one from the WIA. The ACMA notes that there was lack of consensus on the best way forward for the 3.5 GHz band among the 24 submissions received.
On 30 October, the ACMA wrote to all those who made submissions, explaining its decision: “. . . to retain the existing mix of apparatus and spectrum licensing arrangements in the 3.5 GHz band. The current embargoes will also remain in place, at least in the short term, although we intend to review those arrangements as use of the band develops.” The ACMA added that it “no longer considers that increasing the extent of apparatus licensing is appropriate.”
The 9 cm band landscape took a dramatic turn on 22 August 2014 when the Minister for Communications, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, issued a Draft Direction to use 3.5 GHz band spectrum for the NBN spectrum gap, with submissions in response to be received by the Department of Communications no later than 22 September.
The Direction called for the ACMA to complete arrangements by 30 April 2015 to licence two spectrum blocks – 50 MHz at 3400-3425 MHz, and 25 MHz at 3492.5-3542.5 MHz – for NBN purposes under Apparatus licensing. The Direction was registered on 24 October 2014 and expires on 24 October 2015 (www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2014L01399). The two spectrum blocks are currently embargoed to the issue of new licences.
The Department of Communications received ten submissions. Three were from individual amateurs along with one from the WIA.
The ACMA’s letter of 30 October advises that: “In line with the ACMA's decision to maintain existing licensing arrangements in the band, the ACMA will soon commence reissue considerations for the 3.4 GHz spectrum licences, which expire on 13 December 2015.” Further, some sections of the 3400-3600 MHz band that remained unsold in a spectrum licensing round previously, have “lapsed” and become available for reallocation. The ACMA advises that it expects to commence consultation on a proposal to the Minister that this unallocated spectrum be designated for spectrum licensing.
So, amateur access to the 9 cm band remains “as is” for the time being, but we’re not out of the woods.
Submissions to the consultation on Transitioning the 3.5 GHz band for future opportunities (scroll to ‘Submissions received’). - Link
Submissions to the consultation on the Draft Direction to use 3.5 GHz band spectrum for the NBN spectrum gap (scroll to page bottom). - Link
Prior WIA News releases on the 3.5 GHz band issue:
9 cm Amateur Band May be in Jeopardy From ACMA 3.5 GHz Review - Link
Preserving a future for our 9 cm band – WIA submission to ACMA - Link
Battle to Save the 9 cm Band - Link
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