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This chapter considers the issue of overflow and the challenges in
achieving a functional overflow capability. In exploring overflow arrangements,
the chapter details the technical, infrastructure, capability and public safety
considerations which will need to be addressed if public safety agencies are to
effectively utilise commercial networks during periods of extreme crisis and
All witnesses recognised that, in responding to a major national event
or an event which may take place outside of the proposed PSMB network, overflow
arrangements may be required. In such circumstances, a dedicated PSMB network
would need to be supplemented by spill-over onto the commercial network when events
occur outside of the proposed network.
In March 2013, Mr Cheah of the ACMA highlighted that a key part of the
national PSMB network will be the 'ability to roam between the fixed PSMB
network and commercial networks'.
Dr Kerans, the ACMA, went on to explain that it was possible to parallel a
commercial carrier network with the public safety network by use of network
codes which can be portioned off and used almost exclusively depending on the
agreement reached between the respective stakeholders.
Mr Sheehan, AGD, noted in this regard that overflow requirements were
necessary as a mobile broadband dedicated capability will not provide for
'every single inch of landmass'.
Similarly, the AMTA explained that if the current plan to build dedicated PSMB
capabilities in metropolitan areas is implemented, overflow arrangements with
commercial carriers will be required.
Mr Rizvi from the DBCDE noted that:
The existence of these networks means that, subject to
commercial negotiations, access to these networks could be made available
relatively quickly, particularly in regional Australia, whilst public safety
agencies progressively decide where to build their dedicated network. It also
means that as commercial providers invest in new technologies, such as 4G
mobile broadband, the benefits of each new wave of technology can be accessed
by public safety agencies through commercial negotiations.
While the Overflow Capability Sub-Group is currently engaged in defining
the circumstances when overflow may be required, the evidence suggests that it
is most likely in regional areas and during major crisis when congestion occurs
in metropolitan areas.
However, evidence to the committee suggested that the use of commercial carrier
spectrum and networks during widespread natural disasters such as bushfires,
floods and earthquakes is not always viable. According to Motorola Solutions,
such disasters produce two often repeated outcomes which would restrict public
safety access to commercial spectrum and networks. First, commercial networks
are built to maximise profit and the resilience of sites is less than that
which is expected from sites which are built to perform during emergency
situations. Factors which contribute to the resilience of public safety network
sites include equipment redundancy, link path redundancy and power system
backup capacity, physical security and protection against cyber-attack. In
addition, commercial networks are fundamentally designed to maximise the number
of users, with relatively large number of small cell size sites compared to
public safety networks. Second, the design capacity of commercial networks
sites is limited to the expected 'normal day' peak loads. As the general public
want to know about the status of family, friends and workplaces during periods
of crisis, commercial spectrum and networks experience overload conditions
during such situations. In contrast, public safety dedicated sites are designed
for emergency situations and are expected therefore to cope with the peak loads
anticipated during an emergency.
Motorola Solutions concluded that:
A situation where sites are unavailable for use due to
equipment failure and where members of the general public are trying to check
the status of family members and friends is a situation where commercial
spectrum and networks are at or beyond their design capacity and are not
available for public safety use.
While there was consensus that overflow arrangements would have to be
put in place, many witnesses raised serious concerns about how such
arrangements would be established and managed, as well as the consequences for
the general public. Central to these concerns are the significant operational
differences between a consumer-designed network and a public safety network and
how such difference may impact on the ability to PSAs to utilise commercial
networks during emergencies. Tait Communications, for example, noted that only
a private network would provide public safety with the 'quality of service,
reliability, security and control' PSAs need to undertake their core business
Similarly, the NSW Police Force raised concerns that the use of carrier
allocated spectrum by law enforcement agencies would, in some instances,
restrict consideration of tactical and investigative options.
The arrangements were also raised by the AFP which, as a Commonwealth agency,
will not receive an allocation of spectrum under the PSMB network for its
national operations. Instead, the AFP will have to rely on commercial providers
for its own mobile broadband capabilities particularly during major events
where the likelihood of extensive AFP involvement is heightened.
Mr Rizvi of the DBCDE noted that commercial networks are already in
place for around 25 per cent of Australia's land mass, covering in excess of 98
per cent of the Australian population.
The largest commercial carrier in the country, Telstra covers an estimated 27.3
per cent of the land mass of Australia. In terms of population numbers, Telstra
has announced a target coverage of 66 per cent of the Australian population
with LTE by mid–2013 and Optus announced plans to cover 70 per cent of the
metro population by mid–2014.
In its submission, Telstra argued that it could commence a PSMB network by 2015
which would provide PSAs with additional capacity when required by way of
priority access to infrastructure using Telstra's extensive commercial spectrum
portfolio which is valued at several billion dollars and consists of 217 MHz of
spectrum in metropolitan and regional areas and 167 MHz in remote areas.
Mr Althaus from the AMTA noted that as the commercial networks currently
cover the bulk of the country, this investment could be leveraged by a
relationship with the PSAs. He explained that:
If you were step back and ask what it would cost to do our
own network, specifically dedicated for public agencies, who knows what the
cost might be? All I can say is that the initial allocation of money for this
exercise in the United States was $7 billion.
Drawing on an Access Economics study commissioned by the AGD, the AMTA argued
that a private network covering the entire landmass or Australia's population
mass is not viable. Access Economics found that a private network using 700 MHz
band could not be viably built to cover the entire landmass, or population
mass, of Australia. It estimated that the cost of a private network using 700
MHz spectrum and reaching 80 per cent of the population would cost
approximately $242 million in capital costs and $197 million in annual
operating costs. It reported that the total cost of such a private network
would 'exceed one using a commercial network reaching 99% of the population by
hundreds of millions of dollars'.
If the private network were expanded to 99 per cent of the population, estimates
suggested that the annual operating expenditure would increase more than
Access Economics concluded as a consequence, the network would still be reliant
upon both rapid deployment solutions such as COWs for coverage in both regional
and remote areas as well as overflow onto a commercial network. Therefore, at
some level, the PSAs will make use of commercial networks as a 'pure private
network is not a solution'.
However, the Access Economics study highlighted that Telstra is
currently the only operator in a position to provide an adequate solution for
the PSAs and that this situation might continue. It observed that solutions
that rely solely on contract negotiations between PSAs and the commercial
carriers may, therefore, be difficult to achieve on terms that are deemed
suitable for the PSAs.
It noted that if, for whatever reason, the option based on commercial
arrangements is not feasible, a private network using 700 MHz spectrum should
be considered even with the substantial economic costs associated with such an
Commercial operators hold significant amounts of spectrum, which,
according to Ericsson is in the order of 100s of MHz which carry the large
traffic volumes generated in commercial networks across both metropolitan and
regional areas. As traffic continues to double every twelve months or less in
many operator networks, operators are continually adapting and evolving their
networks to deliver highly efficient mobile broadband capacity. Ericsson noted
that for these reasons alone, it would be advantageous to consider the most
effective way to leverage this vast mobile broadband carriage capability and
its associated spectrum band diversity for PSMB applications.
Ericsson recognised the ability to leverage commercial operator LTE network
coverage and capacity as an excellent opportunity to enhance situational
awareness and achieve a common operating picture, particularly given that many
Australian operators have existing spectrum holdings that are standardised for
LTE, such as 1800 MHz (2 x 10–20 MHz), or will deploy a number of LTE carriers
in the near future, including 700 MHz (2 x 10–20 MHz) and 2600 MHz (2 x 20–40
Mr Althaus from the AMTA provided the perspective of the commercial
carriers on the matter:
Yes, there is a need for a dedicated, nationally
interoperable capacity and capability, but it is never going to be able to meet
the coverage and the geographic spread of the commercial networks. So we are
open to how it ultimately manifests itself. We are completely understanding and
supportive of that nationally interoperable capability in mobile broadband.
Resilience and reliability of commercial carrier infrastructure
Orange Horizons noted that historically, during periods of national
emergency, the commercial networks are 'amongst the first levels of communication
to potentially fail'.
Similarly, the PFA observed that the scope for public safety agencies to
utilise the network of commercial carriers when their own systems reach
capacity was 'seriously undermined by the frequency of telco shutdowns in times
of natural disasters'.
The state jurisdictions raised a series of concerns about the technical
and operational viability of the ACMA's proposed mitigation options, including
commercial arrangements, to provide PSAs with sufficient data during a major
urban incident. The WA, ACT, Victorian and NSW governments stated that while
the jurisdictions acknowledge that some arrangements with commercial carriers
may be a necessary part of a PSMB capability, they noted that commercial
networks are known to present issues when congested or otherwise under duress,
such as during emergency situations.
Indeed, the jurisdictions recognised the availability of commercial networks
during emergencies as a significant risk for PSAs.
In light of these risks, the PFA expressed the view that reliance on a
commercial carrier for overflow needs is not a solution to law enforcement
communication needs across the continent.
To highlight concerns with the resilience of commercial networks, the
PFA drew on the work of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman which
reported that 23 providers declared mass service disruptions (MSDs) due to
natural disasters or extreme weather between July 2012 and March 2013.
Heavy rains and flooding in NSW, the effects of the bushfires in Tasmania and
deployment of technicians from Victoria to restore services in flood-affected
areas were amongst the reasons for the 585 MSDs which delayed telephone or
internet service repairs or connections for up to four months. The areas affected
included the northern half of Queensland which was without telecommunication
services for weeks during recent floods and cyclones.
However, large or densely populated areas including capital cities were also
From 29 January to May, because of heavy rains and flooding, services could not
be restored to areas in NSW within the requisite 20 days, and had to be granted
an extension for up to four months. The areas affected included metropolitan
Sydney, Greater Sydney, the Hunter, Central Tablelands and Illawarra districts.
It also included Tasmania due to the bushfires in early January and more
recently an exemption on the 20 day requirement for the restoration of services
was declared for the whole state due to damaging winds.
The 585 MSDs in the 2012–13 financial year amounted to almost 100 more
incidents in comparison to 2011–12. As the PFA noted, the increase in
disruptions is attributed to the increased number of severe weather events and
the location and severity of those events. In contrast, however, the networks
of police services are hardened in order to better withstand such breakdowns.
The jurisdictions provided a number of examples to highlight the fragility of
commercial networks in contrast to the comparatively greater reliability,
robustness and resilience of a PSA network. In June 2012, for example, power
outages during an extreme storm in Perth caused disruption to a large number of
carrier networks sites for up to three days in some areas. In contrast, the Western
Australian Police low-speed data network was sustained thereby enabling police
operations to continue.
Orange Horizons argued that commercial carriers must be encouraged to
improve the resilience of their networks given that they may be relied upon to
augment the needs of a PSMB network. Without improvements, it is very possible
that commercial support systems may not be available.
Similarly, the AMTA suggested that the infrastructure of commercial networks
could be 'hardened' to provide additional resilience and that in regional and
remote Australia, it would likely be more cost effective to harden commercial
mobile networks than to build a separate dedicated PSMB capability.
Telstra also supported the proposition of hardening the commercial networks
through government investment to provide the additional resilience.
However, Ericsson argued that infrastructure spend of PSAs could be
diverted to hardening the networks of commercial operator sites and improving
their recoverability and that it would be most cost effective to negotiate
service agreements with commercial operators to utilise such resources.
Motorola Solutions highlighted that commercial networks use different
technology to public safety networks and are designed to maximise a return
whereas public safety networks are designed for a worst day. Mr Paul Thompson,
General Manager, Government and Public Safety, Motorola Solutions explained
that these are fundamental differences which also imply substantive costs
involved in hardening the commercial networks if PSAs are to have available to
them an equivalent service.
Mr Thompson noted that while partnerships with commercial networks will be
vital in regional areas, the majority of incidents that emergency services are
going to deal with are metro based. These will require rapid call set-up time,
for example, 'if you are trying to communicate with a police sniper', and the
ability to carry HD video if, PSAs require the ability to forensically identify
whether a gun has left an assailant's hand. As such services are not expected
to cover rural areas where PSAs are more likely to deal with natural disasters,
Mr Thompson highlighted the importance of a combination of purpose-build public
safety networks and public carrier networks.
Tait Communications described the operational differences between a
consumer designed network and a public safety network. It noted that commercial
carriers are designed for data downloaded with equitable user access whereas a
public safety network needs to be designed for data upload and have
predetermined user access priorities.
Tait Communications identified a number of additional technical and operational
issues that will require address if PSAs are to transfer onto the commercial
networks. These include:
- the associated priority that each respective public safety user
is assigned on the commercial network upon transfer;
- resolving the interconnectivity between the public safety
broadband network and the commercial network including open-standard interfaces
and network software version compatibility; and
- integrated priority management system.
Orange Horizons raised the question of how carriers would be able to
distinguish mission critical data in order to enable PSAs priority traffic on
the networks and provide them with higher access levels given that once
information (even voice) becomes data on the network, it is simply another item
of data to be transmitted.
The jurisdictions also noted that the ability to roam or overflow onto a
commercial network is a mitigation option but with caveats and the need for significant
detailed planning. Furthermore, the 'rich ecosystem' of frequency bands and
standards does not assure the ability of a PSA devise to roam from a PSA
network into a commercial network in times of need.
Indeed, the varying combinations of bands and standards present device
manufacturers with 'unprecedented challenges to deliver seamlessly workable and
Mr Hewitt of the NCCGR argued that hardening commercial networks was not
On the concept of hardening the commercial networks, I find
that economically crazy, in fact. We would be less than one per cent of their
carriage of data through their networks, yet you are going to spend hundreds of
millions of dollars hardening complete fibre backbones that circle Australia to
secure less than one per cent of the traffic that is being carried on those
networks. That does not seem sensible; it does not seem economically rational.
You would be way better off just putting in microwave, which is what we
consistently use today.
We do not have the demand that the commercials do. We do not
have millions of people—kids with flip phones downloading television programs.
We do not have that sort of demand. Our networks are quite different. The idea
of just putting in more sites and having more density to get more capacity is
one of the weaknesses in the commercial systems. They put in lots and lots of
sites in low-lying areas, so you get lot of good spectral re-use.
Unfortunately, during something like the Newcastle floods they are underwater,
so they stop working. That is another commercial difference between what we do
and what they do.
Community safety considerations
Motorola Solutions informed the committee that the use of commercial
carrier spectrum and networks during a terrorist incident may not be viable for
reasons including the possibility that explosive devises may be triggered through
the use of commercial cellular networks.
Under such circumstances, public safety agencies should be able to call for the
immediate closure of commercial carrier networks.
In the case of the Boston marathon bombings, Motorola Solutions explained that
law enforcement agencies shut down the city's remaining operating commercial
mobile communication systems up to 45 minutes after the explosions to prevent
further potential detonations via those systems. The capacity to close, or make
use of the commercial carriers' networks is therefore critical to public safety.
Another key public safety consideration is that of protecting the
sensitivity of PSA communications. Access Economics noted in this regard that
where PSAs have arrangements with commercial carriers, information transmitted
must be encrypted to ensure that information interception does not take place.
Access Economics continued:
Encryption means that inception of information at the
commercial operator level is again not possible although a potential saboteur
would be able to stop the transmission of information. This is a low
probability but potentially highly adverse outcome, and there is a need for
caution by the commercial operator to avoid any scope for this.
Compromise of emergency warning
Another concern raised was that of the viability of the Emergency Alert
system if PSAs take over commercial networks during periods of crisis.
Emergency Alert is the national telephone warning system used by emergency
services to send voice messages to landline and text messages to mobile phones
within a defined area about a likely or actual emergency.
The service became operational on 1 December 2009.
Telstra noted that the Emergency Alert system had sent over seven million
messages in response to campaigns mounted by the Triple Zero agencies in
Orange Horizons explained that the emergency warning systems for the
general public could be compromised if the pre-emption to allow PSAs to have
priority traffic on the network is too great which could render service levels
Drawing on the experience from an industrial fire that occurred in North
Canberra in September 2011, Mr Hewitt from the NCCGR explained that:
...we were running the international alerting system out there.
People were receiving SMSes to stay indoors, close their windows.
Mr Hewitt noted, however, that those messages would not be received if PSAs
were required to operate on the commercial networks. He explained that if PSAs
had to rely on commercial networks, it would make the national emergency
warning system less viable. Another important concern raised regarding the
Emergency Alert system is that, as it would be expected, those who receive
emergency messages will seek to inform themselves by going onto the network to
obtain further information. In this way, the alerting system itself effectively
drives up use on the network. Therefore, any limits on the ability for PSAs to
warn the public and for the public to be informed in this manner would not be
Public information and the growing
importance of social media
Evidence before the committee highlighted the importance of sustaining
public access to the commercial networks during periods of crisis or emergency.
Such provision enables members of the public to call for assistance, receive
information and inform themselves about the crisis situation and make
appropriate decisions. Information from the public can enable emergency
responders to be kept up-to-date. According to Telstra, the most prominent
example is the Queensland Police Service which used social media during the
2011 Queensland floods as a channel to deliver clear factual information on the
nature of the disasters and provide advice to the wider community.
Orange Horizons noted that, if PSAs are given priority on public
networks and portions of the carriers normal customer base lose access, private
video and other social medial information that 'has been critical to resolving
incidents will be lost or not available'.
Furthermore, sources of intelligence used by first responders would effectively
be cut off as Deputy Commissioner Phelan of the AFP explained:
...you would want to do anything you possibly could to maintain
the flow of intelligence. The example that comes to mind is a major flood,
where first responders cannot be everywhere and the amount of intelligence
coming from the community could be vitally important...You do not want to
restrict the capability of the public to send in that information based upon
their normal 3G or 4G network...so law enforcement can use it.
Similarly, Tait Communications raised concern that commercial networks
remain accessible to the public during extreme circumstances to access
emergency services and contact relatives and determine what assistant is required.
Furthermore, as Tait Communications noted, business will need to communicate to
support the community, economy and subsequent recovery.
Tait Communications also recognised the importance of social media:
...Public Safety needs the commercial networks to be
operational to provide a channel for public information, a good example being
via social media. The point is that the modern social and economic structure is
based upon the availability of mobile commercial communications.
Telstra observed that Australian society utilises mobile broadband
communications as its primary communications media and method of interacting
with the emergency services. For this reason, Telstra argued that it was
imperative that any endeavour that focuses on mobile broadband for public
safety and security embrace all dimensions of the law enforcement and emergency
services business process from the citizen to the first responder and beyond.
Concerns were also raised regarding operational risks with the use of
COWs which are part of the ACMA's mitigation strategy to increase data capacity
in localised high-demand areas.
In their joint February 2013 submission, the jurisdictions noted that a greater
allocation of spectrum could better support the operational responses of PSAs
during the critical time period it would take to deploy COWs to provide that
They noted that a 10 MHz network would lead to greater reliance on COWs for
reasons including that the data capacity available to PSAs from the fixed
network at localised incident sites could be significantly less, and would
likely require more frequent use of COWs in PSAs operations. Furthermore, the
number of COWS needed to provide the adequate supplementary data capacity at
incident sites would likely be greater as a 10 MHz COW would have less capacity
than a COW that can utilise more spectrum.
Mr Waites from the PFA explained the impracticality of utilising COWs
during natural disasters and emergencies:
They are trailered systems you use to bulk up the network.
Commercial carries have those now and in planned operations police currently
use them around New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. But there is a
limited number and they are trailerised. Given that in just about every
emergency circumstance the first one or two hours are critical for the safety
of police officers and certainty for the safety of the community, it will take
in almost all cases longer than that to deploy COWs and set them up.
The PFA concluded that such an option during natural disasters as a case
in point together with the 4.9 GHz band which has 'serious limitations' do not
constitute credible substitutes for 20 MHz in the 700 MHz band.
Contractual arrangements with commercial operators
The complexities of establishing workable contractual arrangements are
evident in Europe. Mobile Virtual Network Operator agreements are currently
under consideration in Europe to enable public safety access over public
operator networks. Ericsson noted that this approach requires a number of
additional features that are not yet deployed by commercial operators. These
features are currently being developed and will have to be trialled.
Spectrum sharing solutions remain, however, in a research phase with current
applications being considered to make better use of lightly-loaded spectrum by
heavier and frequent users such as mobile operators.
The jurisdictions highlighted evidence from the Gibson Quai-AAS study which
warned that Australia could face similar legal issues to that of PSAs in the
United States whereby an agreement could not be reached with carriers on
priority access arrangements. According to the jurisdictions, this was
'primarily due' to carriers concerns about their exposure to legal liability
claims from other customs who would have to be deprioritised.
Access Economics identified some of the organisational difficulties in
relying on commercial arrangements such as reaching contractual agreements,
managing the market power of the commercial operator and enforcing contract
terms. According to Access Economics, some of these difficulties could be
avoided or minimised through proper management possibly achieved through
bilateral contracts or carrier or spectrum licence conditions.
Telstra recognised the importance of contractual arrangements for access
to commercial network sources being built into a partnership agreement. Telstra
noted, however, that additional legal mechanisms were not required because
provisions for declarations of emergency in Part 4.4 of the Radiocommunications
Act are adequate.
In contrast, the jurisdictions supported a regulatory framework to
underpin any priority access, quality of service and network management
arrangements with commercial carriers.
They argued that to reduce the risks associated with commercial carrier
arrangements, the Commonwealth should provide for such a regulatory framework.
Further, the jurisdictions argued that it was important that there are no
constraints on the PSMB spectrum licenses issued to them, so as to best leverage
commercial arrangements and synergies with commercial carriers.
Deputy Commissioner Phelan from the AFP also explained the importance of
providing for a no-cost, or a cost-neutral, agreement for PSAs as it was
inappropriate for police commanders to have to make decisions based on costs in
a split second when lives are potentially at risk.
Mr Rizvi from the DBCDE identified three options. These options include
stipulating, as part of licence agreements with commercial carriers,
arrangements with PSAs in order that it serves as a licence condition which
specifies as part of the term and condition of the licence, the circumstances
under which commercial networks will be seconded for emergency purposes.
Second, that the Commonwealth, by way of legislation or regulation, has the
power to override any licencing agreements to second network services under
specific circumstances. The third option is that of a commercial negotiation
with a commercial outcome based on good-faith discussions between PSAs and the
However, Mr Rizvi also noted that while there is an opportunity for PSAs
and commercial providers to discuss any such arrangements on a national basis,
the PSMBSC is not aware of the current arrangements between jurisdictions and
commercial providers which might otherwise provide a starting point.
Mr Rizvi highlighted in this regard that:
...at present, individual agencies may be using commercial
networks in an ad hoc fashion. We are not across the details of how that works.
What we are interested in is how to develop something like this for the
future—how to develop that capability in a way that is satisfactory and
interoperable across public safety agencies.
Furthermore, Mr Rizvi acknowledged that the first question for
discussion between PSAs and commercial carriers was the practical feasibility
of such an arrangement, how it would operate and whether it would meet the
needs of PSAs. The technical capabilities must be determined as well as their
Mr Rizvi emphasised the need for PSAs to discuss overflow arrangements with
commercial carriers on a national, holistic basis and to move away from
However, Mr Althaus from the AMTA noted that it was up to individual commercial
carriers to explore the operational parameters of their investment,
infrastructure, resources and how that relates to PSAs.
Access Economics recognised key differences between the operations and
motives of PSAs in relation to commercial carriers which will need to be taken
into consideration. These include:
PSAs seek to maximise the benefit to society from their
operation, almost always provide their services for free and generally provide
the service to all those who require access to it. In contrast, commercial
organisations generally seek to maximise profit and do so by finding an
appropriate balance between prices charged, service quality and the number of
In terms of establishing contractual arrangements, Access Economics
identified some of the key steps required including specification of the
service level requirements for each PSA. However, it also highlighted that the
costs of failure to deliver services may result in serious harm and loss of
life to members of the public. One option is to incorporate a clause in the
licence conditions for the holders of the relevant spectrum that requires the
carrier to provide priority services to designated PSAs in emergencies. While
recognising that such a licence condition could 'introduce complications' into
the auction of the spectrum, Access Economics argued in favour of the option
where authorities were not assured that commercial arrangements could be
The fact that Telstra is the only carrier in a position to provide the high
speed mobile services sought by PSAs may strengthen the argument for the
incorporation of licence conditions in terms of holders of the relevant
spectrum. According to Access Economics, the conditions may be couched in a way
where they come into effect if the carrier attempts to set excessive charges of
fails to meet basic reliability requirements.
Access Economics concluded that while it would be economically efficient for
PSAs to make use of the commercial operator's network if suitable arrangements
could be put in place and that it would be less costly to build reliability
standards into commercial networks rather than establish a stand-alone private
network, 'the consequences of a systems failure at a critical point may be
Furthermore, there is a concern that carrier licence conditions imposed upon
spectrum licences in the digital dividend could lead to a decline in the value
of spectrum owing to an increased cost of set up.
The provision of 20 MHz of spectrum for the purposes of a national PSMB
network will assist in minimising the need for overflow arrangements. The committee
further notes that part of the unsold allocation in the 700 MHz band is
adjacent to Telstra which should allow for PSA overflow. At the same time, however,
the committee appreciates that PSAs will have to rely on commercial carriers to
meet overflow demands during critical periods and outside of the network in
order to protect public safety, maintain law and order and preserve national
security. This chapter has detailed some of the substantial operational,
infrastructure, security and community safety challenges and risks that need to
be overcome to provide for effective overflow arrangements including the
viability of the Emergency Alert system.
The committee takes the view that any arrangement between public safety
agencies and commercial carriers must be underpinned by a robust regulatory
framework. Notwithstanding the provisions for emergencies contained in the
Radiocommunications Act, a regulatory framework which sets out measures
regarding priority access, quality of service and network management
arrangements would provide surety regarding the conditions of any agreement
between PSAs and commercial carriers. The committee therefore recommends that
the AGD facilitate a public consultation process on the regulatory measures
required to meet this objective.
The committee recommends that the Attorney-General's Department
facilitate a public consultation process on a regulatory framework for overflow
arrangements between public safety agencies and commercial carriers.
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