Potential incentives for freeing up under-utilised public sector spectrum in Australia

This study assessed international developments in how spectrum management organisations and governments are working with their respective public sector agencies to free up under-utilised spectrum. These findings were then used to advise on how to provide appropriate incentives to free up public sector spectrum in Australia.

Case study countries that provided examples of a systematic approach to the repurposing of public sector bands included France, Hong Kong, Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK and the US. In most cases the frequencies identified for release are those that could be used for providing commercial mobile broadband services. These frequencies are below 5 GHz, have sufficient bandwidth to be attractive to mobile broadband services and are allocated internationally for this purpose (or could be in future).

Based on the case studies a successful approach to spectrum release would appear to involve the following elements:

  • Engaging incumbents, auditing the current uses and justifying the current needs
  • Commitment across government, including the communications regulator/policy agency, the Ministry of Finance and the major public sector users
  • Financial incentives, possibly including fees for public sector spectrum holdings reflecting opportunity cost (termed spectrum pricing), giving the user a share of auction revenues to recover migration costs, or compensation for relocation costs (and alternative spectrum where necessary)