Asia Pacific: its coming of age in driving international spectrum management | ACMA

Asia Pacific: its coming of age in driving international spectrum management

By Chris Chapman,
Chairman, Australian Communications and Media Authority

Just as the economies of the Asian Pacific region are now a major force in the global economy, so too is the region’s rising contribution to spectrum management, particularly in mobile broadband spectrum harmonisation.

In an address at the recent GSMA Mobile Congress in Barcelona (which attracted more than 70,000 attendees), I noted Australia has had the opportunity to more fully participate with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region in the development, from the ground up, of a new, internationally-harmonised plan for mobile broadband: the Asian Pacific Telecommunity Plan for 700 MHz (the APT plan).

We have contributed from day one to the rise of the Asia-Pacific region in the spectrum harmonisation space and were one of the first countries to enthusiastically support the development of the APT plan, and ultimately adopt it nationally.

As the equivalent in the Asia-Pacific region of CITEL or CEPT, the APT has matured into a powerful and respected regional body in the international spectrum management space. In addition, the APT Wireless Group (or AWG) has also come of age in its role of considering various aspects of emerging wireless systems, including mobile broadband, to meet the challenge of digital convergence in the Asia-Pacific region.

I also noted that it has been said by many that this century will see the rise of Asia – politically and economically (especially because of its population growth). The focus on Asia Pacific is usually about trade, politics and economics; what gets less attention in the general press, but is well known to those in the industry, is the coming of age of the Asia-Pacific region in the world of spectrum management, and now international harmonisation.

There is keen interest throughout the region about the APT plan. Many countries within the region have either committed to the plan, announced adoption of variants of the plan (that will retain much, if not all, of the plan’s harmonisation benefits) or are actively considering adoption of the plan.

Most recently Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand formally committed to its adoption, adding to an already substantial list. And, just only on Tuesday 19 March, the Indian regulator announced its commitment to APT700—a massive endorsement from a massive telco market.

The success of the APT plan is also driving acceptance of the plan in other regions.

In Latin America, many countries have either committed or indicated their intention to commit, including Mexico, despite its long border with the US (which has its own but very different 700 MHz plan and which is also sub-optimal in terms of delivering mobile broadband spectrum).

Collectively, the APT plan is now being adopted or seriously considered in markets with a combined population well in excess of 1 billion people and growing. The potential, and increasingly the reality, is that the APT plan will become the foundation of a device ecosystem far greater than that possible with the only available alternative for the band – the sub-optimal US 700 MHz band plan.

I also reminded the audience that one of the key benefits from harmonisation was economic, with less frequency bands yielding significant cost reductions, especially for mobile devices. The potential economies of scale possible with the APT plan are clearly immense … the ‘$30’ handset (of a reasonably acceptable user experience) is a genuine possibility in the medium term. The world, both developed and developing, has already seen the immense economic and social opportunities made possible through mobile technology – the APT plan has the potential to further expand these benefits.

I summed it up this way –

“So what’s really happening in this space? Countries are thinking globally (and no longer within some of the legacy constraints of their ‘Region’) and yet acting locally in their country’s best interests. A fascinating dynamic has emerged, with nations individually modernising their spectrum arrangements but collectively empowering each other in the pursuit of spectrum harmonisation and its benefits.”

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Last updated: 19 September 2016