The Internet Marketing Agency has cancelled all spectrum licenses in Australia, saying it is concerned about the risk of “uncontrolled spectrum congestion”.
The move follows an industry report which warned of the “unacceptable” risks of unlicensed spectrum.
The decision follows a recent report which found the unlicensed market is “highly competitive”.
The decision is a blow to the Australian Government’s NBN Co and is the first time it has stopped issuing licences in the country.
The agency, which has offices in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, has already issued licences to mobile phone provider Vodafone and the mobile phone industry’s biggest player, Telstra.
This move follows a similar decision last year when the agency decided not to issue a licence to Vodacom, Australia’s second-biggest mobile phone operator, citing “unregulated and potentially uncontrollable” demand.
While the agency’s decision was initially welcomed by internet companies, it has been condemned by those who say it is an attempt to put a brake on competition and create a monopoly.
“These are major threats to competition and innovation in the market,” said Chris Bowers, the chief executive of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the industry body that represents the telecommunications industry.
“These decisions by the AMA will not only increase the costs of deploying the network, but will also delay the deployment of the network to all Australians.”
“The AMA has a responsibility to ensure that competition is not hampered by unlicensed markets and that consumers have a strong and competitive choice of providers to access their broadband,” he said.
Under the new rules, licensed spectrum can only be used for communications services that are not telecommunications services, and cannot be used to provide internet access.