Spectrum policy overview
- Administrative Radio Licensing
- Spectrum Rights
- Register of Radio Frequencies
- Public Policy Spectrum Reservations
- Archived Policy and Planning
The primary mechanisms for managing radio transmissions are the Radiocommunications Act 1989 and the Radiocommunications Regulations 2001 . Their provisions are summarised below.
Other relevant legislation is the Broadcasting Act 1989 which deals with issues generally related to the content of broadcasting services, the Telecommunications Act 1987 and the Telecommunications Act 2001 which deal with matters relating to telecommunications services, and the Commerce Act 1986 which deals with market and competition matters.
Under administrative licensing, frequency bands are planned for various services in accordance with international practices, technical standards, and government policy directives. Persons wishing to utilise frequencies in accordance with these plans apply for a radio licence for which an annual fee is often charged. This fee covers the costs of interference management, international co-ordination, technical standards, enforcement and compliance.
Also referred to as the Radio Licensing Regime, it is an administrative system regulated by the Radiocommunications Regulations 2001 made pursuant to the Radiocommunications Act.
The licences issued under this regime are known as radio licences. Radio licences are typically:
- specific to a transmitter
- revalidated each year
- specific about the type of the equipment and transmission methods used
Examples of radio licences are:
- Ship licences (for maritime radio transmitters)
- Land Mobile licences (including mobile communications)
- Satellite licences
- The granting of radio licences are subject to Government policies.
Until 1989 administrative radio licensing was the sole means for managing access to the spectrum resource. The Radiocommunications Act 1989, however, introduced a new framework based on tradable long-term leases for periods up to 20 years.
The Act provides for the Crown to transfer a frequency band to the new framework by the creation of a Management Right over the range of frequencies concerned (e.g. 88MHz to 108MHz).
The Crown may retain the Management Right and grant Spectrum Licences to frequencies within the band, as is the case with most radio and television broadcasting bands, or dispose of the Management Right to another person who may then grant Spectrum Licences.
Except for frequencies reserved to meet specific public policy objectives it is current practice to allocate Management Rights, and Spectrum Licences under a Crown-retained Management Right, by way of public spectrum auctions or tenders.
This system is generally referred to as the Spectrum Licensing Regime, the Management Rights Regime or the Long Term Tradable Property Rights Regime.
The Spectrum Licensing Regime provides for two basic types of spectrum rights:
Management rights cover a block of the radio spectrum. They are essentially the right to issue licences for the use of that part of the spectrum. Management rights do not themselves confer the right to make any transmissions.
The government retains ownership of a number of management rights, including those covering the public broadcasting spectrum (radio and television). Licences are issued by the government according to a mix of commercial and social policies.
Management rights can be searched through SMART.
Spectrum licences are granted by the owner of a management right and are typically:
- assigned for a defined period of time.
- non-specific to equipment or transmission methods.
- defining an envelope within which the licence holder is free to operate at his or her discretion.
There are three types of spectrum licence. The most common type is a licence to transmit radio waves and to have no interference. These confer the right to make transmission on a specified frequency and the right to stop other persons transmitting interfering signals on the same frequency. The other two licence types are licences to have no interference on a specified frequency and licences to transmit unwanted emissions.
Examples of spectrum licences are:
- Broadcasting licences (FM, AM)
- 3G cellular licences
- Managed Spectrum Park Licences
Occasionally test licenses maybe issued in Crown Management rights according to published policy.
A public register, the Register of Radio Frequencies,records transactions such as creations, transfers,f cancellations, mortgages, and caveats, in regard to Management Rights and Spectrum Licences. Radio Licences are also recorded in the Register. The Register also performs a vital role in the co-ordination and engineering of new licences to minimize the potential for radio interference to existing services.
The Register is available online through the SMART database.
The role of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in relation to broadcasting includes:
- Spectrum allocation and licensing functions, in conjunction with the roles of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Te Puni Kōkiri as noted below;
- Broadcasting competition issues;
- Technical planning of broadcasting bands;
- Regulatory and economic impacts of broadcasting technology;
- The government's international treaty obligations under GATS and ANZCERTA in relation to trade in audiovisual services.
International treaty provisions reserve some frequency bands on a global basis for specific services such as aircraft and ship communications and navigation. Other bands and frequencies are reserved to meet national interests such as police, fire, ambulance, defence and conservation. Actual provision and operation of services is the responsibility of the relevant agencies.
Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development) is responsible for developing policy on reserving radio and television broadcasting frequencies for the promotion of Māori language and culture, and for determining successful applicants, and monitoring compliance, for particular reserved frequencies. However, the Ministry of Economic Development remains responsible for issuing licences for reserved frequencies.
The Ministry for Culture and Heritage is responsible for developing policy on reserving radio and television broadcasting frequencies for other purposes, such as Access Radio. It is also responsible for applying the Government's non-commercial broadcasting framework to decide between competing applicants for reserved frequencies. Again, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment remains responsible for issuing licences for reserved frequencies.
Under the provisions of General User Licences, various uses of radio spectrum are exempt from individual licensing and licence fees. These licences typically apply to radio services such as cordless telephones, garage door openers, remote car door locking, maritime VHF radio and CB radio. In many instances the nature of the technologies employed, conditions of operation, or the short operating ranges involved, limits the potential for interference between different applications sharing the same spectrum. General User Licence bands are commonly known in other countries as "spectrum public parks", "unlicensed bands", or "class licence bands".
Documents relating to the development of some policy and planning projects are available here. This information will be extended as projects are completed.