Electromagnetic spectrum (spectrum) is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. Most electronic devices, including smartphones, satellites, tablets, televisions, radio and radars rely on spectrum frequencies to carry information.
The Department of Communications and the Arts (department) is the lead policy authority on matters relating to the allocation of spectrum and has key responsibilities under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (Radiocommunications Act). The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is the entity responsible for regulating radiocommunications in Australia.
In December 2017, the ACMA made a recommendation to the Minister for Communications and the Arts (minister) for the reallocation of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band through an auction process. The 3.6 GHz band is part of a larger band that has been identified by various countries for mobile broadband network capabilities, including the early deployment of 5G — the next generation of wireless broadband technology — that is expected to improve the reliability and performance of fixed and mobile broadband networks.
Most electronic devices rely on spectrum frequencies to carry information. This spectrum is a limited resource. The social and economic benefits of 5G are expected to be wide ranging, and the department and the ACMA need to work closely with industry, government and the community to make spectrum available in a manner that maximises the benefits of 5G, while minimising the impacts on existing communications services and customers. The auction of the 3.6 GHz band was the first spectrum reallocation targeted at the deployment of 5G services, and the department and the ACMA are preparing for future 5G spectrum releases.
The objective of the audit was to examine the effectiveness of spectrum reallocation to support the deployment of 5G services. The audit examined the following high-level criteria:
- whether the department and the ACMA effectively prepared for the reallocation of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band; and
- whether the ACMA effectively administered the reallocation of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band.