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Digital dividend update
 

Digital dividend update

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Presentation by Giles Tanner, General Manager, Digital Transition Division

Presentation by Giles Tanner, General Manager, Digital Transition Division
Australian Communications and Media Authority

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  • This presentation provides an update on the ACMA’s work on realising the Digital Dividend. I last spoke publicly about the ACMA’s work in realising the Digital Dividend at our Spectrum Tune Up in November last year. At that time, we had released our Digital Dividend Discussion Paper and had invited submissions on the full range of issues surrounding the Digital Dividend, to inform our next steps in the process. That consultation process followed earlier consultation on the future of the 2.5 GHz band (2.5-2.69GHz), which is internationally harmonised for advanced broadband services, but currently used by TV networks to provide Electronic Newsgathering Services. The results of this work include decisions to reallocate substantial parts of the 2.5GHz band for broadband wireless services.I’d like to take this opportunity today to fill you in on the ACMA’s progress with reallocation of the 700MHz and 2.5GHz bands, and in particular some important key decisions the Authority has recently taken.
  • When we talk about the television ‘digital dividend’, we usually meanthe reallocation, sometimes called the ‘re-farming,’ of the 700MHz band, shown here, which is currently used primarily for free-to-air television. On 24 June 2010, the Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, announced that Australia’s digital dividend would be 126MHz wide, from 694-820 MHz, corresponding to UHF TV channels 52-69. A subsequent Ministerial Direction enabled the ACMA to commence planning for the reallocation of this spectrum.
  • Yielding the digital dividend requires three things: the conversion of all free-to-air television services to digital, including the surrender of channels used for analog TV; the re-stacking of digital TV services into a smaller amount of the UHF spectrum; and the reallocation of the block of spectrum freed up by re-stacking television, in the form of spectrum licences. This slide gives a high level overview of the re-stack process (which sits above the line) and the reallocation process (which sits below the line). To minimise or avoid the problem of spectrum lying unused between analog television switchoff – to be completed by 2013 – and the commencement of new services using digital dividend spectrum, the ACMA is working to reallocate the spectrum in the digital dividend while the planning and implementation of the re-stack proceeds, rather than waiting till the end. In other words, the third step to realising the digital dividend (re-allocation of the digital dividend spectrum) will proceed in tandem with the second step, namely the re-stack of broadcasters.Naturally, we would like to see this valuable spectrum made available for new services as early as is consistent with an orderly and well-managed consolidation of all broadcasting services in the spectrum below UHF channel 52, so that the public can start to see the benefits from its new uses.Since I first introduced this diagram at the Digital Dividend Tune-up in November last year, we have already made some important progress. On the re-stack side of the time-line, the Parliament only this month finally passed into law amendments of the BSA 1992 that are required to effect the re-stack of broadcasting services. Great progress has also been made with digital TV re-stack planning, which Chris Hose will be telling you about later in his presentation. And lastly, analog switch-off has continued to occur on schedule, with 5 May seeing nearly half a million more households throughout Regional Victoria go digital-only.On the reallocation side of the timeline, the ACMA has carefully considered all submissions to its 2010 Discussion Paper and is poised to take the first formal step towards an auction of spectrum licences in the 700MHz ‘digital dividend’ spectrum.Reallocation of spectrum for spectrum licences involves the interplay of ACMA and Ministerial powers. Basically the ACMA must recommend to the Minister that he make the spectrum subject to a ‘reallocation declaration,’ and the Minister may then make the declaration – which defines the boundaries of the spectrum space to be reallocated and sets a timetable within which the ACMA must complete the reallocation and licensing process.But before the ACMA can make a re-allocation recommendation to the Minister (s.153F), the Radiocommunications Act 1992 requires the ACMA to consult with all affected apparatus licensees already occupying the spectrum in question. This is because the effect of the Minister’s reallocation declaration would be to force them to vacate that spectrum by the end of the ‘reallocation period.’ (Or would ordinarily be: the law governing most broadcasting licences that operate in the digital dividend is a little unusual in this respect.)(Show how lower half of slide reflects this process)The ACMA must include certain things in a s.153F recommendation: one or more parts of the spectrum to be re-allocated the period that, in the ACMA’s opinion, the declaration should specify as the re-allocation period. It is also open to the ACMA to include other things in its recommendation.The ACMA has now prepared a draft reallocation recommendation for the 700 MHz band. We will be seeking comments from potentially-affected apparatus licensees on the terms of the draft shortly. Meanwhile it is my pleasure to provide you all with a preview of the draft recommendation today. 
  • The ‘Parts of the spectrum’ to be reallocated are defined by their frequency and geographic boundaries.You may be unsurprised to learn that our draft will recommend frequency boundaries that align with regionally and internationally harmonised spectrum agreements. International harmonisation has a number of benefits. It facilitates uniform technology standards, and enables Australia to join larger market areas and enjoy the ‘economies of scale’ benefits that large market areas offer. It also enables greater international roaming capacity (for mobile communications) and portability of equipment in general. The draft recommendation contains frequency boundaries that align with regionally harmonised band arrangements developed by the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity Wireless Group (AWG) for frequency-division duplex technologies (FDD).As shown in this slide, the proposal will see two paired blocks of 45 MHz being reallocated, from 703–748 MHz and 758–803 MHz. The parts of the band that will not be re-allocated include the mid-band gap (748–758 MHz), guard bands (694‑703 MHz and 803‑806 MHz), and the extension band (806 MHz to 820 MHz). The paired band configuration will enable advanced broadband telecommunications services to be deployed using FDD technology, a technology which is supported by equipment manufacturers internationally.
  • The second dimension to the spectrum to be reallocated is geographical. In recommending geographical boundaries, the ACMA can basically take one of two approaches: re-allocate the entire band Australia-wide (so, a national allocation); or re-allocate the entire band in some parts of Australia and, in other parts of Australia, part or none of the band (so, a non-national allocation).There are a number of things we take into account in making this decision for a particular band. We consider things such as: likely demand by bidders for spectrum, the technical characteristics of the band, the likely future uses for the spectrum and international trends, as well as current incumbent useOur draft recommendation proposes a national allocation of the 700 MHz band, excluding only the core of the Mid West Radio Quiet Zone (or, the RQZ). Responses to our discussion paper strongly confirmed the earlier indications of a high level of demand for the spectrum. It’s the “waterfront property” of the telecommunications spectrum world, sharing characteristics with the 800MHz and 900MHz spectrum that is so critical to existing wide-coverage mobile telecommunications in this country. With demand anticipated for very wide coverage services, and the technical characteristics of the band (which mean it will be at its most efficient where geographical boundaries are minimised), we believe that there is no case for excising any of the band.An important exception is the RQZ. The RQZ is intended to facilitate the development and use of new radio astronomy technologies at that location, and support Australia's bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).To continue to protect the RQZ and support the SKA bid, the centre of the RQZ is to be excised from all new national spectrum licences. Spectrum licences in areas around the RQZ will also be subject to a licence condition designed to prevent harmful interference to radioastronomy services at the site.
  • Finally, the re-allocation period will set the timeframe during which the re-allocation process is to be completed. The re-allocation period must begin within 28 days of the spectrum re-allocation declaration being made by the Minister, and must run for at least two years. During this time, incumbent apparatus licensees may continue to operate their service. At the end of the re-allocation period, any remaining apparatus licences within the band are cancelled – we’ll come to that broadcaster exception in a moment.  The ACMA also proposes to recommend a reallocation deadline, which is basically the date by which an auction needs to be run... And at least one spectrum licence allocated.This slide shows the reallocation period and reallocation deadline set out in our draft recommendation. We’re proposing that the reallocation period start on 2 November 2011 and run until 31 December 2014, with a reallocation deadline of 31 December 2013.This doesn’t mean we will be running an auction at the end of 2013. We actually intend to run an auction by the end of 2012: also shown on the slide. I mentioned that certain broadcasting licences are exceptional, and this flows from the different planning and allocation arrangements that apply to broadcasting services in the ‘broadcasting services bands’ (BSBs). These are governed by Part 3 of the BSA and by separate apparatus licence provisions in the Radiocommunications Act. In order to yield the digital dividend, it was important for Parliament to clarify how the ‘world’ of BSB planning and licensing is to co-exist with the more general laws that govern apparatus and spectrum licensing in all bands, and the result is recent amendments of the BSA creating ‘Television Licence Area Plans,’ or TLAPs. This is a variation of the existing power in s.26 of the BSA to make plans showing the broadcasting services that are available in each area using the BSBs, however TLAPs have been expressly designed to assist with the task of re-stacking digital television services in the spectrum below UHF channel 52. TLAPs for each area will show both the pre- and post-restack location of each television service, and may establish a time frame within which restack must occur. The way this new law interacts with the reallocation period is that national television services (that is, ABC and SBS), also licensed television services – this mainly refers to commercial television services – will be required to comply with any dates in the relevant TLAP, rather than with the final date in the reallocation declaration. Ensuring these two legal processes; reallocation and restack; remain in step will be a key role of the ACMA as we realise the digital dividend.I hope that is all clear.
  • The 2.5 GHz band is currently used for television outside broadcasting, including Electronic News Gathering (ENG). These services operate under apparatus licences that are planned solely for television outside broadcasting.The 2.5 GHz band has been identified internationally for Wireless Access Services (WAS) and there has been an unusually high degree of international harmonisation around this use, with allocations in most major economies either already in place or planned in all three ITU regions. With indications suggesting that the value of the band was increasing, the ACMA has conducted a review of the band, concluding that the current arrangements may not support its efficient allocation and use. A twin objective of the ACMA’s review was to make long-term arrangements for adequate spectrum for broadcaster ENG services. The ACMA published a Response to Submissions paper on 21 October 2010, setting out a proposed way forward for the 2.5 GHz band: reallocation of 2 x 70 MHz of spectrum via spectrum licensing conversion of existing ENG apparatus licences to spectrum licences in the mid-band gap development of long term arrangements for ENG, notably in the 2.1 and 2.3 GHz bandsWe are now in a position to outline our way forward for reallocation of the 2.5 GHz band.
  • As I mentioned, three key processes are involved in moving the 2.5 GHz band to its highest value use: Conversion of existing ENG apparatus licences to spectrum licences in the ‘mid band gap’ Sharing and coordination arrangements ina range of alternative bands identified for continuing ENG operation Reallocation of the rest of the band for spectrum licences through price-based allocation.The first two processes are set out above the line in this slide – the conversion process, and the identification of alternative bands, including relocation of ENGs to those alternative bands.The reallocation process is set out below the line. The process follows Part 3.6 of the Radcoms Act, and mirrors the process we will be following to reallocate the 700 MHz band except that, as this is not ‘broadcasting bands spectrum,’ the reallocation declaration will indeed operate so as to fix the sunset date for all apparatus licences in the band.As with the 700 MHz band, the first key step in the re-allocation process is for the ACMA to make a recommendation to the Minister under s.153F of the Act. This recommends that the Minister make a spectrum re-allocation declaration, declaring that certain parts of the spectrum are to be re-allocated. The requirements and the process followed for this are the same as I’ve just covered – we need to recommend the parts of the spectrum to be reallocated and the reallocation period. We have also elected to recommend a reallocation deadline, and the type of licence to be issued, namely spectrum licensing. The ACMA has now prepared a draft recommendation for the 700 MHz band. We will be seeking comments from potentially-affected apparatus licensees on the terms of the draft shortly. As the terms are of more general interest to industry, as with the 700MHz band, I’m pleased to be able to provide you with an overview of the draft recommendation today.
  • In the 2.5 GHz band, the ACMA proposes to recommend to the Minister that frequency bands 2500–2570 MHz and 2620–2690 MHz be re-allocated. As with the 700 MHz band, this is driven by the desirability of achieving international and regional harmonisation. Our consultation last year through the Review of the 2.5 GHz band and long-term arrangements for ENG Discussion Paper found that there is demand for the ACMA to release more spectrum for FDD technologies, compared to TDD technologies. The telecommunications industry specifically has noted its preference for FDD spectrum and strongly supports the implementation of the ‘CEPT model’ in the 2.5 GHz band, highlighting that this model will align Australia with other major countries in its region as well as with Europe. The frequencies the ACMA has proposed here are based on the CEPT model. We believe that this model will maximise the benefits of international harmonisation. The mid-band gap will be retained for ENG use. Notwithstanding its utility for TDD broadband telecommunications, the ACMA has previously found that unless some 2.5GHz spectrum is retained, ENG services will not be able to replicate all of their current functionality using the new identified bands.[note: CEPT refers to the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations, which is the peak body for coordinating European contributions to ITU-R.]
  • As with the 700 MHz band, our draft recommendation for the 2.5 GHz band proposes a national allocation, excluding the core of the RQZ. From our consultation last year, we’ve seen that there is demand for this spectrum in metropolitan, regional and rural areas, with potential bidders expressing support for national licences.Past spectrum rollout experience has shown that demand for spectrum in regional and remote areas has increased over the term of the 15 year spectrum licences, and has also extended beyond the scope of the ACMA’s original estimations. In the 2 GHz band, which is comparable to 2.5, increased demand since the previous auction has seen the need to subsequently issue several thousand apparatus licences to cover areas outside spectrum licence boundaries. Spectrum licensing across Australia in the 2.5 GHz band will support future demand for spectrum in this band, as well as eliminating the licence boundary management issues that are created where you have a mixture of spectrum and apparatus licensing.You will see that the area around Perth in this map is highlighted. While the ACMA is proposing to include Perth in the national allocation, there is a need to retain the 2.5 GHz band for incumbent ENG services until January 2016, as the identified alternative bands will not be available in Perth until that time. The Perth spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band will be auctioned at the same time as the rest of the band. However, the spectrum in that area will be made available for use later than the rest of the country.
  • To provide sufficient time for ENG relocation to occur, the ACMA is proposing a re-allocation period in the 2.5 GHz band that runs from 2 November 2011 to 30 September 2014. In the Perth area, with the delayed availability date, we have proposed a reallocation period that ends in January 2016. This would not prevent an auction of the re-allocated spectrum, including Perth, being undertaken at the one time. It would also not prevent an auction being held earlier than the proposed reallocation deadline of 30 September 2013.
  • With these two important bands of spectrum “on the table” at the same time, we’ve given close thought to how they should be timed and sequenced. The Authority has decided to run a single auction of the two bands, scheduled for late 2012.There are a few key reasons behind our decision to auction the two bands together. Firstly, there are clear complementarities between the bands. Both bands are suitable for providing LTE services. Spectrum in the 700 MHz band can provide coverage over a wide area and with high building penetration. The 2.5 GHz band, on the other hand, is suited to providing high data capacity in more densely populated, high demand areas. Stakeholder preferences were also a key driver for this decision. From the consultation we ran last year for both the 700 MHz and 2.5 GHz bands, there was a clear stakeholder preference for a single auction of the two bands. This means that from here, the allocation processes for the two bands will be aligned. Rather than working towards two auctions, we will be working towards one auction with two products on offer. I do need to make an important point here. From the consultation we’ve run, it is clear that potential bidders are seeking access to spectrum in these bands as soon as possible. And we agree that this is important. So, while we have elected to auction the two bands together, if there was an unforeseen delay to the auction of one band, we would not let this delay the auction of the other band. While we think there are some clear benefits to auctioning the bands together, our number one priority is maximising the public benefit derived from use of the spectrum. This means we will be looking to hold an auction as soon as possible – as you can see, we are working towards an auction at the end of 2012. Leading up to the auction, we will provide briefing and support to potential bidders to assist them in using the online spectrum auction system we decide to use.
  • So, what are the next steps?Today we will be releasing two information papers. The first sets out the terms of our draft reallocation recommendations in greater detail. The second invites comments from the public on our proposal to recommend that the Minister 'designate' the mid band gap in the 2.5 band for spectrum licensing. On the reallocation side, we will be writing to potentially-affected apparatus licensees individually, inviting their comments on the draft terms. We will take any comments received from licensees into account in preparing our final recommendation to the Minister, which we are aiming to provide to him at the beginning of August. We can then move on to preparing for the auction itself, which is no small task. Much of our focus this year will be on preparing the detailed auction rules that will apply, as well as information for bidders. In closing, I’d just like to emphasise that the ACMA is focused on running a transparent, consultative auction process. If you’re interested in hearing about the process, we’re interested in telling you about it. There are a number of different ways you can stay informed about the process. The best place to start is to sign up to our spectrum auctions e-bulletin – just sign up at www.acma.gov.au/SpectrumAuctioneBulletin  I’d also just like to thank everyone who has contributed to the process so far, by making submissions to our previous discussion papers. As you can see, the submissions we have received have informed the key decisions that the ACMA has recently made. We’d like to see such good participation throughout the auction process, as it will enhance the outcomes we are ultimately able to deliver. 
  • Shortlink to the ACMA’s Spectrum Auction e-Bulletin

Digital dividend update Digital dividend update Presentation Transcript