In October 2012, the Australian Communications and Media Authority announced its strategic approach to meeting the spectrum needs of Australia’s public safety agencies into the future. The cornerstone is the provision of an additional 60MHz of spectrum from the 800 MHz and 4.9 GHz bands to facilitate the deployment of high-speed, nationally interoperable mobile broadband networks by public safety agencies.
Australia’s public safety agencies (PSAs) are critical to the safety and security of the community, and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) places a high degree of importance on providing adequate spectrum to support dedicated networks that optimally support their operations.
The ACMA is undertaking a number of initiatives to improve spectrum provisions for public safety. The most important are:
- Making provision for 10 MHz of spectrum from the 800 MHz band for the specific purpose of realising a dedicated nationally interoperable PSMB cellular 4G data capability. This band supports 4G (LTE) systems and as such is considered to be ‘beach front’ spectrum by carriers and PSAs alike. The precise frequencies to be provided from within the 800 MHz band will be determined later in the context of the ACMA’s full review of the 803–960 MHz band.
- Providing 50 MHz of spectrum from the 4.9 GHz band for PSAs. This spectrum is recognised internationally as a public protection and disaster relief band, capable of extremely high capacity, short range, deployable data and video communications (including supplementary capacity for the PSMB network in areas of very high demand). The ACMA has released a consultation paper on this issue.
- Implementing critical reforms in the 400 MHz band—where spectrum has been identified for the exclusive use of government, primarily to support national security, law enforcement and emergency services—is continuing. More information is available on the ACMA site.
The ACMA’s ongoing challenge is to make adequate spectrum available for PSAs to carry out their duties effectively, while optimising the benefit of the spectrum as a whole to the community. This requires balancing a range of economic and public interest (including public safety) drivers to deliver solutions that best serve the community as a whole. The ACMA released a paper (Word [.docx 1.3 mb] or PDF [832 kb]) covering the ACMA decisions and current initiatives that are intended to provide for current and future public safety radiocommunications needs in Australia.