Australia’s ACMA Targets 3.6-GHz for “5G” Mobile Broadband

Australian telecoms regulator ACMA has announced plans to reallocate spectrum in the 3.6-GHz band for 5G purposes.

The five-year spectrum outlook released today by ACMA details how Australia’s telecom regulator will adjust spectrum usage of 50MHz of the 900MHz band for 4G mobile broadband, switching from the roughly 8MHz paired chunks of spectrum that worked best with 2G to sets of matched 5MHz pairs more efficient for 4G networks. This won’t happen until mid-2021 to give telcos enough time to roll out appropriate hardware, and also takes into account the as-yet-unallocated 850MHz ‘expansion’ band, where two 15MHz portions sit unused.

However, it’s 3.6GHz that’s most interesting, because that massive 125MHz portion of spectrum could be huge for 5G mobile connectivity or even fixed wireless broadband across Australia. 3.6GHz is “being looked at internationally as a pioneer band for 5G mobile broadband”, according to ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin, and ACMA wants Australia to be positioned well to take advantage of any early developments. Telstra sits on the 5G steering council, and both Vodafone and Optus have already done significant testing with network partners.

The Australia telecom regulator also plans to re-allocate the 2G spectrum being freed by the switch off of 2G services for more modern mobile services.  In order to achieve these goals the regulator is following a new five-year spectrum roadmap, which was published last week.

The outlook includes details of planned spectrum allocations including possible auction scenarios, as well as a proposed approach to the development of annual spectrum work programs.

‘The 3.6 GHz band is being looked at internationally as a pioneer band for 5G mobile broadband. We want to make sure Australia is well placed to realize the benefits 5G has to offer,” ACMA chairwoman Nerida O’Loughlin said.

‘Now that 2G services have been or are being switched off, the ACMA is also keen to re-farm the 900 MHz GSM band and optimise its utility for newer generation mobile broadband services, such as 4G. We propose to do this over a number of years to avoid disruption of existing services. We also plan to make available additional spectrum already planned for reallocation to mobile broadband in the 850-MHz band.”

Author’s Notes:
1. Please refer to this blog post for the status and schedule of true 5G (IMT 2020) standardization.
2. IMT 2020 workshop which includes hyperlinks to enable you to download the presentations:
There were four organizations that presented their proposed IMT 2020 RAN (AKA RIT/SRIT) schemes at this workshop:
3GPP 5G, ETSI DECT, Korea IMT 2020 and China IMT 2020.
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