Private band management in the Australian spectrum market

This study advised on the conditions required to foster successful private band management in the Australian spectrum market. To this end Plum researched band management arrangements in the Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US and considered the feasibility of these arrangements in Australia, given the current legal and regulatory arrangements for spectrum management.

Private band management is only possible if an entity holds a licence that allows rights of access to radio frequencies to be leased or traded to third parties. A private entity could then acquire a spectrum licence (at auction or through a trade) and seek to lease or trade the rights of access to that spectrum – becoming a private band manager.

Private band management involves privatising activities that are currently undertaken by the regulator, including planning and co-ordinating use of the band, licence assignment and renewal and dealing with interference issues. There are different models for “privatising” spectrum management, ranging from contract-based management (where the band manager coordinates spectrum use, but doesn’t own the spectrum or assign licences) to private ownership of spectrum.

Plum’s review of the international evidence found that:

  • If vacant spectrum is auctioned then private band management may develop organically (though the number of suppliers will be small)
  • The only examples of band managers in encumbered spectrum are cases where the users themselves have created the band manager
  • Market functions, such as facilitating trades, might be undertaken by organisations that are similar to accredited persons

Plum also provided recommendations for stimulating private band management in the Australian market.