In Australia, there are 2311 Low Powered Open Narrowcast Stations (LPONs). These stations operate at 1W or 10W, and are scattered all across our continent. As LPONs are the most easily obtainable FM license of all the different FM broadcast license categories – there have been new allocations made consistently since 1993. Although there are thousands of these licenses, they are often overlooked by Commercial, Community & Government broadcasters. So, who owns all these stations? And where are they actually located?
All radio spectrum license data is searchable on the ACMA Register of Radio Communications Licenses website. Most people don’t know you can also download the entire dataset as a series of CSV files.
For this article, I’ve downloaded the entire ACMA dataset, imported it into SQLite, run some queries, and performed some data visualisation on the results. I’m only focusing on licenses with frequencies 87.6Mhz, 87.8Mhz, and 88.0Mhz. This data was fetched from the ACMA website on 14th January 2017 – this is not live data.
LPONs By Owner
Of the 2311 allocated LPONs, 1365 (59%) are owned by ten entities. There are 281 other entities who own one or more LPONs.
|Licensee / Owner
|United Christian Broadcasters Australia Limited
|Seventh-day Adventist Church (Australian Union Conf.) Ltd
|Dianne Maree Nacson
|Suzette Elizabeth Munro
|Hello Radio Pty Ltd
|Andrew Thorold Toll
|Noise FM Pty. Ltd.
|Adventist Radio Australia
Five of these LPON-owning entities are individuals, three of these entities are Christian broadcasters, and the remaining two are private companies.
State by State
When we group the licenses by state, we can see NSW and QLD are by far the most popular states – and this should probably be no surprise. This would be due primarily to population and land mass.
LPONs have strict rules about their physical placement in respect to other LPONs, so NSW and QLD provide the greatest opportunities for licenses per capita. Victoria, although it has a comparable population, is geographically much smaller so wouldn’t be able to fit as many LPONs based on the separation requirements.
Australian LPON Location Map
The following Google Map shows the physical locations of all Australian LPONs. This is based on the recorded site Latitude and Longitude values in the ACMA RadComm database.
At first glance, two of these licenses seem to be far out to sea. However, when you zoom in you can see these are actually assigned to Lord Howe Island! This is an Australian territory, so is covered within ACMA’s jurisdiction. Interestingly, there are no allocations on some other Australian islands – but this may need some more thorough investigation to see what rules apply to spectrum licensing in these areas.
When were LPONs issued?
This chart shows the year each LPON was originally issued:
The two hugs spikes are in 1994 and 2016.
1994 was the first full year when LPONs were available for allocation
The 2016 spike was possibly due to Analog TV exclusion zones being removed (although I can’t confirm this). The data I’m using for this chart is from the device_details.AUTHORISATION_DATE field. It’s possible the spike shown in 2016 is due to small license allocation changes (again, I can’t confirm this).
Although it’s only the third week of 2017, 18 licenses have already been allocated!
Where have the newest LPONs been issued?
The following table shows the suburbs with two or more LPONs issued since 1st October 2016:
NSW has been pretty popular in the last few months.
What else can we find out?
This data is pretty interesting, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
With a bit of extra work, we could identify available frequencies in different locations. We could see who’s running big networks in certain geographical regions. We could identify licenses coming up for renewal, and offer to buy them from the operators. We could plot each major operator on the map using different colours to investigate their coverage.
If you’ve got any ideas for different ways to analyse the data, post them in the comments below.