Australia kicks off public consultation on 5G spectrum allocation

Earlier this week, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) called for feedback on potential competition issues associated with an upcoming allocation for the 26GHz spectrum which will impact the roll-out of 5G services across the country.

In a public consultation paper, the ACCC said a potential competition issue that could arise is the creation of significant concentration in the ownership of high-band spectrum holdings as a result of this allocation.

In addition, there is also a risk of spectrum monopolisation as well as strategic bidding to block competitors from acquiring spectrum, leading to competitive disadvantage in downstream markets and locking operators out of new markets.

Following the consultation exercise, the ACCC is expected to advise Australia’s minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts, Paul Fletcher, on whether limits should be imposed in the auction to protect and promote competition and, if so, how those limits should be applied.

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

The 26GHz spectrum band is expected to enable a range of 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 millimetre wave 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,” Cifuentes said.

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

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