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 Licenses Allocated
United Christian Broadcasters Australia Limited 658
Seventh-day Adventist Church (Australian Union Conf.) Ltd 194
Dianne Maree Nacson 104
Suzette Elizabeth Munro 83
Ian Munro 78
Hello Radio Pty Ltd 69
Andrew Thorold Toll 54
Craig Allen.. 53
Noise FM Pty. Ltd. 39
Adventist Radio Australia 33

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.

State Licenses
NSW 690
QLD 560
VIC 375
WA 307
SA 185
TAS 127
NT 29
ACT 23
Not Specified 15

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:

Site Postcode LPONs Issued Subusb State
2575 4 ALPINE NSW
2850 4 AARONS PASS NSW
2250 3 BUCKETTY NSW
2430 3 BLACK HEAD NSW
6230 3 BUNBURY WA
2259 2 ALISON NSW
2263 2 CANTON BEACH NSW
2318 2 CAMPVALE NSW
2323 2 ASHTONFIELD NSW
2324 2 BALICKERA NSW
2334 2 GRETA NSW
2428 2 BLUEYS BEACH NSW
2533 2 BOMBO NSW
2540 2 BAMARANG NSW
4702 2 ALBERTA QLD
4830 2 BURKETOWN QLD
5710 2 COMMISSARIAT POINT SA

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.

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I'm Anthony Eden, and I'm a broadcast technician / software developer / technology solutions engineer. I've been working in broadcast media since 2008 (getting my start in Community Radio while still at school), and developing software and websites for just as long. Right now, I work in the broadcast industry and provide some freelance services through Media Realm.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_eden