Getting the right licence | ACMA

Getting the right licence

How does it work?

You cannot operate a space-based radiocommunications network in Australia without an appropriate licence. The Radiocommunications Act 1992 requires that the operation of all transmitting and receiving devices, including earth stations and space stations on satellites, be authorised by a licence issued by the ACMA. If the network is used for telecommunications purposes then, under the Telecommunications Act 1997 a carrier licence may also be needed.

The ACMA's flexible licensing arrangements support efficient and equitable licensing for a wide variety of space-based communications systems and applications. They allow the often unique characteristics of these systems to be accommodated within the regulatory framework.

When licensing a space-based system, we take into account:

  • its configuration and
  • the nature of its use of Australian spectrum.

The commercial preferences of the satellite operator, the service provider or the end user may also affect the nature of the licensing arrangements.

Who needs to get the licence?

Operation of a satellite network may involve many tiers of ownership or service provision, involving:

  • Operators of a satellite
  • Resellers of satellite capacity
  • Providers of services from a satellite
  • Consumers or users of a satellite service

Any of these parties may hold the licences authorising operation of a space-based communications system.

Before you operate a satellite service, what needs to be asked is:

  • Is a licence needed at all for this particular device?
  • If so, does someone already hold a licence for it?
  • If not, what types of licences are there? and
  • What types of licence do I need?

Who doesn't need to get a licence?

You do not need to apply for a licence if the operation of the network is already authorised; that is, another party already holds a licence for it.

How do I apply for a licence?

You can obtain application forms for licences from the ACMA's Radiocommunications Licensing and Assignments Section, or download them from our website.

Applications for an apparatus licence are made by completing the appropriate ACMA spectrum forms.

Completed applications can be:

Sent to:

Radiocommunications Licensing and Assignments Section
Operations and Services Branch
Australian Communications and Media Authority
PO Box 78
Belconnen ACT 2616

Or fax: +61 2 6219 5347

If you need to contact the ACMA before submitting your application you can either phone +61 1300 850 115 or email Radiocommunications Licensing and Assignments.

How long does it take to get one?

The time it takes to get a licence varies from case to case.

If the application is straightforward a licence may be issued within the specified periods indicated in our Customer Service Charter.

An example of a straightforward licence is one that authorises operation of an earth station on frequencies already included in the Radiocommunications (Communication with Space Object) Class Licence 1998 (the Class Licence). Generally speaking, the inclusion of frequencies in the Class Licence means that they are available for use throughout Australia by space-based communications services. Another straightforward licence application is one for which the proposed frequencies are included in the Class Licence and the satellite is already specified in a Space Objects Determination issued by the ACMA.

If we need to authorise operation of a station on a frequency not mentioned in the Class Licence or of satellites not included in the Space Objects Determinations, then detailed consideration may be required and the application could take longer for us to process. If an application is particularly complicated or requires amendment of a Determination, it may take six months or longer before a licence can be issued.

Licensing via the ground or space segment

For satellite-based communications systems both the uplink and the downlink frequencies generally need to be licensed. We offer the choice of licensing the space segment (satellites) or licensing the ground segment (earth stations). The most suitable option depends on the configuration of the satellite, or the satellite system, the nature of its use of Australian spectrum and the commercial preferences of the satellite operator or the service provider. In some cases, if one part of the system is authorised by an apparatus licence, the remainder may be covered by a class licence.

For example:

  1. You can authorise uplink and downlink frequencies using individual apparatus licences for fixed or mobile earth stations communicating with space stations, or other earth stations via a space station. OR
  2. You can authorise uplink and downlink frequencies by individual apparatus licences for the space segment, namely, for space stations. If a space receive licence is used, then the earth stations communicating with the space station could be covered by the Class Licence.

Licensing via the ground segment

Licensing via the ground segment involves the issue of individual earth or earth receive licences to authorise the use of spectrum by earth stations in Australia to communicate with space stations. As the earth stations use the frequency ranges specified in the licences, their operation does not have to be limited to a particular satellite. This arrangement supports earth stations that communicate with several satellites in the course of normal operations.

Licensing via the space segment

Licensing via the space segment involves the issue of individual space or space receive licences to authorise use of Australian spectrum by space stations. In such cases, earth stations communicating with space stations are authorised by the Class Licence, which specifies broad frequency bands within which space and space receive licences can be issued. The Class Licence only authorises earth stations operating within these bands and only with apparatus-licensed space stations.

Space segment licensing is not feasible in all frequency bands. Technical and planning considerations restrict it to those where individual coordination of earth stations is not required.

Currently, space segment licensing arrangements can be supported in the following frequency ranges:

Uplink Frequency Ranges
(earth to space)

Downlink Frequency Ranges
(space to earth)

148 - 150.05 MHz
1610 - 1660.5 MHz
1980 - 1994.5 MHz
1994.5 - 2000 MHz
2000 - 2009 MHz
2009 - 2010 MHz
14.0 - 14.5 GHz or
28.6 - 29.1 GHz

137 - 138 MHz
400.05 - 400.15 MHz
400.15 - 401 MHz
1164 - 1215 MHz
1215 - 1260 MHz
1525 - 1559 MHz
1559 - 1610 MHz
1613.8 - 1626.5 MHz

2170 - 2178.5 MHz
2178.5 - 2184 MHz
2184 - 2193 MHz
2193 - 2200 MHz
2483.5 - 2500 MHz
11.7 - 12.75 GHz or
18.8 - 19.3 GHz

Last updated: 06 November 2017