Since 1992, the year of the first SMS, the world of communications has changed. The digital era has transformed how we communicate and the way in which data, voice and video, is sent and received from one place in the world to another.

The spectrum policy and management framework for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) was also developed in 1992. This framework was fit for purpose for its time and was last substantially updated in 2002. In recent years with the emergence of wireless technologies such as the LTE and WiMAX along with the recent trend of mobility for communications, the framework and policy is in need of an update.

The Minister for Communications has announced a review of the spectrum policy and management framework. The Department of Communications (the Department) is undertaking the review in conjunction with the ACMA. An Issues Paper was released in early 2014 for public consultation and identified Terms of Reference for the review. The review is expected to be completed in early 2015 with the implementation to follow shortly after.

The Minister for Communications has recently released the ‘Spectrum Review – Potential Reform Directions’ (Consultation Paper) for public consultation. It sets out reform principles and potential reform proposals for stakeholders to provide comment on.

In order to bring the framework and spectrum policy into the digital era and beyond, the Department has identified key principles for the reform as transparency, efficiency, flexibility, certainty and simplicity. These five principles are crucial factors that guide the development of the Proposals in the Consultation Paper.

The Department and the ACMA has identified that there is a need for a clear and transparent policy and framework that will also enable the end user to have greater involvement in the management of spectrum. The radio spectrum is limited, so best efforts must be made to efficiently allocate and subsequently use the spectrum. To maximise the use of the spectrum, a flexible approach towards choice and innovation is required. There must be certainty for all users of the spectrum from a regulatory perspective and ensure that Australia works with other international regulation bodies. Finally, the new framework must be simple in nature and easy for all parties, particularly the end users to understand.

The eleven Proposals outlined in the Consultation Paper show that the Spectrum Framework does need to adapt and develop to best use the technologies of today and the future.

While the Proposals are positive for innovation and productivity, for businesses with sophisticated wireless technologies, the proposed Reform could impact significantly on operations, particularly with respect to spectrum sharing and reallocation of licenses.

For more information and how these changes could potentially affect your business and its wireless technologies, contact Craig Copes on +618 6467 0600.