Australia’s 'digital dividend' is the spectrum that was freed up for new uses by the switch from analogue to digital television.

Digital dividend is the spectrum that was freed up by the switch from analogue to digital television. This spectrum in Australia is in the frequency range 694-820 MHz. The spectrum has been optimised for 4G technology.

 Frequency Diagram

Four steps to achieve the digital dividend

It took four steps to achieve the dividend:

  1. The digital switchover: Digital television services took over completely from analogue television (December 2013)
  2. Spectrum reallocation: Regulatory and statutory processes changes enabled the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to replan the spectrum and sell licences for some of the newly available spectrum for new uses (December 2014)
  3. Auction: Licences for 90 MHz of digital dividend spectrum were auctioned in April–May 2013.
  4. Channel changes and television retune: Television broadcasting services were stacked more efficiently into the broadcasting spectrum below 694 MHz. Industry refers to this as the restack of broadcasting services.

Licences purchased at auction commenced on 1 January 2015 and are being used to provide high-speed 4G mobile broadband services.

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What happens to the unsold digital dividend spectrum?

On 7 October 2016 the Minister for Communications and the Arts announced the Government would be selling all of the unsold 700 MHz spectrum by auction.

On 14 December 2016 the Minister directed the ACMA on two key auction settings.

·         The Minister directed the ACMA to set a reserve price of $1.25/MHz/pop. This is the equivalent of the 2013 ‘digital dividend’ auction reserve price, adjusted for a shorter licence term.

·         The Minister also directed the ACMA to set allocation limits of 2 x 20 MHz for the auction. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found these limits would promote competition, encourage efficient outcomes in the mobile market and be in the long‑term interests of end-users.

A copy of the Executive Summary of the ACCC’s advice to the Minister on allocation limits.