The Australian Government is committed to delivering spectrum reform to provide tangible improvements in spectrum management and a more efficient regulatory framework.
In October 2019, the Government outlined a staged approach to amend the existing Radiocommunications Act 1992. On Thursday 27 August 2020, the Radiocommunications Legislation Amendment (Reform and Modernisation) Bill 2020 (the Bill) was introduced into parliament, giving effect to the proposed reforms.
The amendments are designed to deliver on the Government's 2019 announcement and streamline and modernise the legislation. This will be achieved by adding flexibility to the legislative framework, clarifying institutional roles, removing unnecessary legislative barriers and improving processes, and introducing graduated enforcement mechanisms, to ensure the spectrum management framework remains fit for purpose in a rapidly changing environment.
The Bill was opened for public consultation from 24 June 2020 through to 17 July 2020. Outcomes were largely positive, and feedback received as part of the consultation was considered in the development of the final Bill.
As part of the reforms, spectrum licence terms are proposed to be extended to a maximum of 20 years, with clearer licence renewal processes. The arrangements for apparatus licences are also being aligned with spectrum licences to the extent possible.
The Bill passed the Senate on 8 December 2020 without amendment, and Royal Assent was received on 17 December 2020. The Radiocommunications Legislation Amendment (Reform and Modernisation) Act 2020 can be downloaded at www.legislation.gov.au.
The provisions of the Act will come into force on 17 June 2021, to give users of spectrum sufficient time to adjust to the new regulatory framework.
We are continuing to work with the Australian Communications and Media Authority to improve spectrum management.
In 2015, the Government announced it would implement the recommendations of the Spectrum Review, including to:
- Replace the current legislative arrangements with new legislation that removes prescriptive processes and streamlines licensing for a simpler and more flexible framework
- Better integrate the management of public sector and broadcasting spectrum to improve the consistency and integrity of the framework
- Review spectrum pricing to ensure consistent and transparent arrangements to support the efficient use of spectrum and secondary markets
In May 2017, the Government released a consultation package on these recommendations which included an Exposure Draft of a new Radiocommunications Bill and consultation papers on the proposed approach to broadcasting and transitional arrangements. Feedback received on that bill has helped shape the approach to the amendments in the Radiocommunications Legislation Amendment (Reform and Modernisation) Bill 2020 that was passed by the Parliament on 8 December 2020.
Spectrum Pricing and Commonwealth Holdings review
The changes were informed by industry consultation and will promote increased transparency and pricing efficiencies, allowing spectrum to move to its highest value use.
The Commonwealth-held spectrum review recommended establishing an advisory committee of Commonwealth agencies to develop a whole-of-government approach to Commonwealth-held spectrum.
The Government Spectrum Steering Committee has been formed and the first biennial report on Government Spectrum Holdings was released in April 2019.