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Spectrum Licence Renewal

BACKGROUND

INDUSTRY POSITION

  • Many of the original 2G spectrum licences are coming up for renewal in the next few years. National regulatory authorities must determine how mobile operators’ spectrum rights will be affected as licences approach the end of their initial term.
  • The prospect of licence expiry creates significant uncertainty for mobile operators. A transparent, predictable and coherent approach to renewal is therefore important, enabling operators to make rational, long-term investment decisions.
  • There is no standard approach to relicensing spectrum. Each market needs to be considered independently, with industry stakeholders involved at all stages of the decision process.  Failure to effectively manage the process can delay investment in new services and affect mobile services for, potentially, millions of consumers.
Debate
  • Which approach to spectrum licence renewal will have the most beneficial outcome for consumers and society?
  • Should spectrum licence holders presume they will have the option to renew when the licence reaches the end of its term, unless otherwise specified in the licence?
  • Should governments feel free to reshuffle spectrum allocations, change bandwidths or alter licence conditions on renewal?
It is essential that governments and regulators implement a clear and timely process for the renewal of spectrum licences.

  • Maintaining mobile service for consumers is critical. To ensure this, the approach for licence renewal should be agreed at least three to four years before licence expiry.
  • Governments and regulators should work on the presumption of licence renewal for the existing licence holder. Exceptions should only apply if there has been a serious breach of licence conditions in advance of renewal.
  • Should a government choose to reappraise the market structure at the time of renewal, the priorities should be to maintain service for consumers and ensure network investments are not stranded. Governments should not discriminate in favour of, or against, new market entrants, but establish a level playing field.
  • New licences should be granted for 15 to 20 years, at least, to give investors adequate time to realise a reasonable return on their investment.
  • Renewed mobile licences should be technology and service neutral.