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Nerida O'Loughlin, RadComms, 2018

Nerida O'Loughlin

Welcome and introduction

Good morning and welcome everyone to RadComms 2018. It’s good to see so many familiar, and many new faces here today.

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, as the traditional custodians of this land on which we meet today. I pay my respect to their elders, past, present and emerging.

Last year was my first RadComms, only a few weeks after I commenced as ACMA Chair. It has been a very full 12 months, so today I would like to:

  • give you an update on new Authority arrangements and introduce Authority members who are all here today
  • discuss the ACMA’s new strategic direction, vision and mission as encapsulated in our 2018–19 corporate plan
  • identify a number of spectrum priorities and our current thinking.

Changes to the ACMA’s governance structure, including a move to more full-time Authority members was one of the key recommendations arising from the Review of the ACMA.

This year, the government appointed three and reappointed one Full-time Authority Members—all of whom will be here and chairing sessions throughout the two days at RadComms.

I would like to introduce you to them—Creina Chapman, the ACMA’s Deputy Chair and CEO, Fiona Cameron, James Cameron and Chris Jose.

And recently, Anita Jacoby has been appointed as an Associate Member of the Authority. As an Associate Member, Anita’s appointment relates to broadcasting and gambling matters and decisions.

As a new Authority, we have taken steps to provide more transparency about how we operate. This was another key recommendation arising from the ACMA Review.

We recently published on our website, our Code of Conduct for Authority Members and Associates.

The Code includes our new arrangements, whereby each member will be an Authority Lead in specific areas, enabling them to provide focus and additional expertise in those areas.

This will also involve engaging with stakeholders in the relevant area and representing the Authority in relevant external forums. Those of you who deal with our fellow regulator, the ACCC, will be familiar with such a model.

At the ACMA, spectrum and radiocommunications issues will continue to be led by James Cameron—many of you are aware that he has been serving as our key radiocommunications Member for some time now.

Creina Chapman, is leading on content issues, which incorporates broadcasting and gambling. Fiona Cameron is the Lead on consumer issues across telecommunications, spam and Do Not Call spaces. Chris Jose is the Lead on infrastructure, predominantly under the Telecommunications Act.

These arrangements are designed to enable each of the Authority Members to engage more deeply in certain areas. However, all decisions will continue to be made by the Authority as a whole, and where relevant, under delegation by ACMA staff.

All Authority Members will continue to fully participate in all aspects of the Authority’s regulatory decision-making, and not just in the area on which they provide Authority leadership.

If you haven’t already, please take the opportunity over the next two days to introduce yourself to Authority Members, if there are issues that are of particular interest or concern to you.

Another important part of the ACMA’s transparency and accountability to its stakeholders is our corporate plan. We published our new corporate plan in August this year, and it covers the period from 2018–19, through to 2021–22. It outlines some ambitious strategic priorities for the ACMA, as well as identifying the ways we intend to deliver on these priorities.

As the new Chair, I was keen to revisit the ACMA’s purpose, vision and mission statement that will be guiding the ACMA’s work over the next four years. The aim of this year’s corporate plan is to position the ACMA for what our world will look like in 2022.

Some of our observations about that world include:

5G and the momentum it will give to the Internet of things will increase the pressure for spectrum to be planned and allocated sooner.

We can expect the NBN to be fully rolled out. NBN is a major user of spectrum for both terrestrial and satellite telecommunications applications, and its future spectrum needs will be an important consideration in our future planning work.

Broadcast television and radio are continuing to come under pressure from digital media platforms. Later today, we will hear more about the technology path for broadcasting and what this means for future regulation.

Important principles around media diversity, news and influence will need to be protected across all delivery platforms.

Community expectations that networks will be fail-safe and services will be available everywhere and all the time, will only increase.

And we also need to be paying attention to the lessons for regulators coming out of inquiries like the banking royal commission, and the broader review of the Australian Public Service, headed by David Thodey.

Being clear about our purpose, vision and mission, along with our priorities and strategies, will assist us in navigating this environment.

To that end, we have set:

  • Our purpose—why we exist—as: To maximise the economic and social benefits of communications and media for Australia.
  • Our vision—what we want our work to achieve for the Australian community—as: A connected, informed, entertained Australia.
  • And Our mission—how we do our work—as: We engage with consumers, industry and government to shape and apply the regulatory framework.

To guide our work over the next four years, our three strategic priorities are:

  • Public confidence is underpinned by the provision of safeguards, information and advice.
  • Spectrum arrangements benefit all Australians through efficient and effective management.
  • A regulatory framework anticipates change through monitoring our environment and influencing regulatory responses.

Our thinking in setting these priorities is that, without public confidence, consumers are unlikely to adopt new technologies, and businesses are less likely to invest in innovation. An increasing demand for spectrum as new technologies emerge will make it more important, and perhaps more challenging, to balance competing interests. And we have set ourselves an explicit priority about ensuring regulatory frameworks adapt to be fit-for-purpose as markets and business models evolve.

You will see how we have operationalised these priorities in the ACMA’s five-year spectrum outlook or FYSO, that includes an annual spectrum work program. Thank you for engaging with the ACMA, as we have benefited from your views to inform our work program.

Turning to our spectrum priorities, I might say something about a few key areas of our work in the coming year, beginning with 5G and the Internet of Things.

While Australia is typically a technology adopter, we are at the forefront of international developments in relation to 5G. Turning first to mid-band spectrum, the 3.3–3.8 GHz band has been identified internationally as a pioneer band for 5G.

The ACMA, with the upcoming auction of the 3.6 GHz band, will soon have made 300 MHz of prime 5G spectrum available to the market for use.

At the conclusion of the auction, we have also been encouraged by stakeholders to consider optimising allocations across licensees’ existing and newly acquired spectrum holdings, which may include defragmentation and licence conversion processes. We will take up this issue when the auction has concluded.

We are also actively considering options to make millimetre wave spectrum available for fixed and mobile wireless broadband services.

Globally, jurisdictions appear to be selecting one or other of 26 GHz and 28 GHz for their first wide area millimetre wave 5G deployments, based on patterns of existing usage.

The unique properties of millimetre wave—particularly its very short propagation distances and low ability to penetrate physical barriers—call into question our traditional heavy reliance on wide-area spectrum licences. It invites us to consider a range of licensing approaches that take account of multiple use cases.

I look forward to considering industry views on these novel challenges.

We had certainly hoped to have a final set of preferred options for 26 GHz by Quarter 2 of this year. But delays in the results of European studies have set us some more homework to look at how these studies can be applied to Australian circumstances.

No-one should doubt the high priority the ACMA is giving this work.

We recognise there are linkages to other millimetre bands. We’ve begun a high-level review of the uses of 28 GHz.

In this band, we recognise emerging demand from several sources, notably from satellite services. But we also recognise the scope for greater sharing between multiple use cases and its potential application for coordinated access by point-to-multipoint services, such as WISPs.

Subject to what we learn from your submissions, we are seeing this band as most likely to be a candidate for shared, coordinated access by multiple service types, as it is today.

I should make clear that no decisions on changes to the use of 28 GHz will take place without a further round of consultation.

While much contemporary discussion of millimetre wave begins and ends with 26 or 28 GHz, the ACMA will also soon be consulting on extending existing class licence arrangements for wireless broadband in the 57–66 GHz band to also encompass the 66–71 GHz band. If adopted, this would align Australian arrangements to those established in the United States and being considered elsewhere, such as the United Kingdom.

Turning to the Internet of Things, I’ve noticed there is a tendency to conflate IoT and 5G.

While IoT and massive machine type communications is certainly a 5G use case, IoT can be delivered in many different ways.

There is no one simple solution to spectrum access for all the different IoT applications. With that in mind, we’ve been working both directly and indirectly on spectrum arrangements for IoT applications.

Directly, our initiatives look to targeted spectrum releases for non-cellular IoT, in particular for low power wide-area networks that will operate in the frequency range 928 to 935 GHz. This spectrum is intended for class-licensed IoT use from 2021 onwards. The ACMA is in the process of clearing that band in preparation for this, but in the meantime, operators can apply for apparatus licences for trialling and establishing networks.

Another direct measure are recent changes to arrangements for space-based communications systems to support new satellite based IoT systems.

Indirectly, we continue work through our mobile broadband work plan and associated optimisation of licensing frameworks under which the major carriers have implemented cellular IoT technologies.

We are continually monitoring developments to ensure that all relevant spectrum arrangements take into account any emerging applications.

In terms of satellite communications, we are currently witnessing a dramatic upsurge in space activity, propelled by innovative space entrepreneurs and miniaturisation in satellite designs using commercial off-the-shelf components known as CubeSats.

Together, these conditions are substantially lowering satellite construction and launch costs.

Many Australian organisations are not only joining but also leading this second wave of innovation in space, which has been dubbed ‘Space 2.0’. Later today, we’ll hear from some Australian leaders in this area who are working to maximise the benefits of the new space industry to the Australian economy.

For the ACMA, these developments are central to our role as spectrum planner and regulator. New innovations in space will challenge our domestic and international regulatory arrangements, which were designed in an era of few participants, high costs and very long lead times.

That’s why we have set ourselves the task this year of reviewing our space licensing procedures, as well as starting a discussion on the regulatory arrangements for small satellites and CubeSats.

To better inform and assist innovation and growth in the space industry, we think there is a need to develop specific information on spectrum management targeted at small organisations. There is also a need for more streamlined ways for such organisations to access spectrum, both for trial and demonstration purposes, and provide a possible pathway to commercialisation.

We will place a priority on streamlining and improving our regulatory arrangements, as well as identifying unintended obstacles to innovation and commercialisation opportunities.

We are also mindful of the critical communication links provided by more traditional satellite operations—and the substantial investments these have required over recent decades. Our review of space licensing procedures will focus on maintaining protection for existing systems while ensuring that our procedures are appropriate and commensurate with the risk of interference.

As demand for spectrum increases across a range of different use cases, it is timely to also consider new and innovative approaches to spectrum sharing.

Traditionally, spectrum sharing has largely focused on static approaches that establish co-existence arrangements defined through fixed geographic and spectral boundaries. It has been far less common to use dynamic spectrum-sharing approaches, sometimes referred to collectively as dynamic spectrum access (DSA) or dynamic spectrum management.

Spectrum sharing requires some degree of compromise between multiple spectrum uses (that is, services or applications) or users (individual licensees) accessing the shared spectrum. There are a variety of different models that can be considered.

As detailed in the FYSO, the ACMA continues to monitor prospective bands that could be suitable for the implementation of flexible/dynamic spectrum access arrangements. This includes the 3.3–3.4 GHz, 4.4–4.5 GHz and 4.8–4.99 GHz bands.

Change is now a constant feature of the communications sector. And we, as the regulator are not immune from such change. I would therefore like to mention some important changes of personnel in the ACMA spectrum regulation area.

During our recent appearance at Senate Estimates, I paid tribute to our outgoing General Manager of Communications Infrastructure Division, Giles Tanner PSM, who is retiring at the end of November. As Giles has appeared before Estimates on some 60 previous occasions, his near-institutional status received well-deserved recognition from both the minister and opposition senators. I understand he may be taking a somewhat valedictory approach in his speech in tomorrow’s session on Spectrum futures—don’t miss it.

Linda Caruso will be to stepping into Giles’ very big shoes after his departure. Linda has played a series of key policy, economic and strategic roles at the ACMA before heading-up our spectrum reform work.

This will also be the last RadComms conference for Mark Loney, most recently our Executive Manager, Operations, Services and Technology Branch, Mark is best known for his work in technical regulation and most recently as the convenor of the RadComms Conference.

And, David Brumfield, long-time spectrum auctioneer at ACMA and its predecessors, will be retiring in the New Year, although this will also be his last RadComms appearance.

I pay tribute to the contribution that Giles, Mark and David have made to the ACMA and the Australian community through their work over many years.

I would also be remiss today if I did not acknowledge the recent departure of one of our Study Group Chairs, Lex Vipond—Lex has been Chair of Australian Radiocommunications Study Group (ARSG) 4 on Satellite Services since 1993 and other groups before that—going all the way back to 1987. As well as acknowledging Lex’s outstanding service to industry and the Australian Government over that period, I’d like to thank his employer, Optus, for its long support for our critical international work.

In conclusion, I would again like to welcome you to the ACMA’s RadComms conference. Your attendance here at RadComms is an important part of our stakeholder engagement each year. I encourage you to take up the opportunities provided over the next two days to talk to ACMA members and staff and share your views with them and industry colleagues gathered here on the future of these innovative and dynamic sectors.

Over the next four years, as identified in our corporate plan, we expect to see unprecedented innovation in the global communications and media environment driven by accelerating advances in technology. This has the potential to deliver great benefits for the Australian community, but also challenges, as new technologies and platforms test the boundaries of our regulatory frameworks.

I look forward to our discussion over the next two days; exploring how radiofrequency spectrum can deliver future benefits for all Australians, and any challenges we will need to overcome together to ensure that those benefits are maximised.

Thank you.

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