The state and territory governments are significant users of spectrum, in particular for mobile radio communications for police, fire and ambulance services. The Australian Government uses mobile radio communications in particular for policing, customs and counter-terrorism purposes. There have been many instances where joint operations (both intrastate and interstate) have appeared to be hampered by incompatibilities between the different radio systems in use.
To improve their own efficiencies, state and territory governments have been increasingly rationalising their disparate agency mobile radio systems by implementing "whole-of-government" radio networks. Jurisdictions appear to have experienced various degrees of acceptance and co-operation from their own agencies in migrating to shared networks.
The ACMA and its predecessors have made various attempts over the years to try to harmonise spectrum used across Australia for these purposes. The first occasion arose from Cyclone Tracy in December 1974. By the late 1970s a block of 64 UHF channels had been identified in spectrum between 450 and 470 MHz, in an attempt to redress the lack of interoperability among the attending services on that occasion. This spectrum was used almost exclusively by the various police services. The early 1990s presented a second opportunity to accommodate this objective, as state governments particularly began moving to whole-of-government mobile radio networks.
Late in 2003 - supported by the Australian Government Minister for Defence, the Attorney−General and the Minister for Justice and Customs, the State Premiers and the Territory Chief Ministers - the former ACA facilitated a new national forum for this purpose (read the Letter of invitation). Known as the National Coordinating Committee for Government Radiocommunications (NCCGR), it has the objective of developing and maintaining a national strategic plan for government radiocommunications by a co-ordinated approach among jurisdictions. Objectives include interoperability needs, and the promoting of effective and efficient use of the radiofrequency spectrum by government. All jurisdictions are members, and there are a number of observers/advisers such as the Attorney-General's Department, the Department of Defence and the police services representative body. The ACMA remains a non-voting member of the NCCGR. The NCCGR can be contacted via it's website.
In parallel with the work of the NCCGR, the former ACA preserved spectrum in the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan for government related mobile services. In 2011, the 400 MHz plan was amended to provide several segments of spectrum within the band for use for government purposes. Government services are consolidating in these bands and various jurisdictions are taking up this opportunity to rationalize and harmonise their radiocommunications use. Having common spectrum, of itself, does not achieve interoperability (eg, the equipment could still be incompatible). However, common spectrum might assist in the longer term goal of achieving interoperability between essential and emergency services, both intrastate and interstate. Adaptive and software defined radios could also assist, in the longer term.
The ACMA continues to support the work of the NCCGR and is actively assisting governments in current projects for their respective government radio networks.