The ACMA Is Future-Proofing Australia’s 4G And 5G Mobile Networks

The ACMA Is Future-Proofing Australia’s 4G And 5G Mobile Networks
Image: iStock

We already use our phones a lot, and there are a lot of us using phones at the same time. That means a lot of pressure on Australia’s mobile networks, which are already stretched to breaking point. The Australian Communications and Media Authority is making decisions on the future of 4G and 5G for the next five years that will make sure the limited wireless spectrum we have is efficiently used.

The ACMA is starting the long and tedious procedure of reallocating spectrum in the 3600MHz band, and re-jigging the 900MHz spectrum previously used for 2G — completely switched off not too long ago by all three national carriers.

The five-year spectrum outlook released today by ACMA details how the regulator will adjust spectrum usage of 50MHz of the 900MHz band for 4G mobile broadband, switching from the roughly 8MHz paired chunks of spectrum that worked best with 2G to sets of matched 5MHz pairs more efficient for 4G networks. This won’t happen until mid-2021 to give telcos enough time to roll out appropriate hardware, and also takes into account the as-yet-unallocated 850MHz ‘expansion’ band, where two 15MHz portions sit unused.

But it’s 3600MHz — or 3.6GHz — that’s most interesting, because that massive 125MHz portion of spectrum could be huge for 5G mobile connectivity or even fixed wireless broadband across Australia. 3.6GHz is “being looked at internationally as a pioneer band for 5G mobile broadband”, according to ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin, and ACMA wants Australia to be positioned well to take advantage of any early developments. Telstra sits on the 5G steering council, and both Vodafone and Optus have already done significant testing with network partners.

3.6GHz is already used by some regional wireless internet services, so ACMA will look into shifting those to higher 5.6GHz and 28GHz bands in the future too. It’s all a big juggling act, including with satellite networking companies. Everything will evolve in the years to come, but ACMA already has an eye on how the future of Australia’s wireless and mobile networks will shape up. [ACMA]