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Conclusions and committee view
Principle 1 of the ACMA Principles for spectrum management requires
the allocation of spectrum to the highest value use or users'.
In addition, the object of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 is to manage
radiofrequency spectrum in order to, amongst other things 'maximise, by
ensuring the effective allocation and use of the spectrum, the overall public
benefit derived from using the radiofrequency spectrum'.
The committee recognises that there is no greater use of spectrum as a
public resource than that of ensuring the safety of the Australian public. Public
safety operations are essential to the public interest.
As noted by Mr Chris Cheah of the ACMA, public safety agencies have both
particular operational needs and are a 'critical element of our national
In order to optimise the public benefit from the allocation of spectrum,
the committee considers that PSAs require at least 20 MHz of spectrum in the
700 MHz band. Without sufficient spectrum to meet actual demands in the future,
the decision to allocate 10 MHz (5 + 5 MHz) could have a serious impact on
future emergency management capabilities and adversely affect the Australian
The first hours of a mission critical operational response, and
particularly the first hour, are the most important in terms of saving lives
and property. It is in this period that communications must operate seamlessly,
in a timely manner and on an interoperable basis. The public expect that police
and emergency service decision makers are provided with all necessary
information to make critical decisions to protect lives and property in the
event of a crisis or emergency. It would not be acceptable to the public to
equip public safety agencies with less than the necessary communications
capacity to deal with life-threatening situations.
The committee also appreciates that there is a growing expectation
regarding the role of emergency services in strengthening the disaster resistance
and resilience of communities as evidenced by various commissions of inquiry
conducted into bushfires and floods. The ability of police and emergency
services to meet such expectations (timely action to protect the public, order
an evacuation or provide appropriate advice), is vital to sustaining public
trust and cooperation. Law enforcement agencies and emergency services have a
high public profile and often rely upon public cooperation and information to
perform their functions. The inability of PSAs to act in a timely manner
following an emergency or in response to a community need could not only have a
detrimental impact on the community but also a significant and long-term effect
on the reputation of the PSAs and particularly law enforcement agencies to
serve and protect society. The committee recognises that the use of mobile
broadband technology is a significant enabler to the effective use of
information to deliver improved public safety outcomes as expected by the
The objectives of a PSMB network as set out in Chapter 3 of this report include
enhanced situational awareness are vital for PSAs to respond to emergencies and
protect their own officers. In order to achieve these objectives, PSAs must be
provided a minimum of 20 MHz in the 700 MHz spectrum and supported to
establish a national PSMB network. The demise of analogue broadcast television
has allowed the reallocation of the vacated 700 MHz part of the radio-frequency
spectrum. This development has provided a unique opportunity to establish a
national mobile broadband communications network. This network would allow
various PSAs to better plan, coordinate and execute their missions using the
most up-to-date communications technology, whether it be for their day-to-day
operations or for responding to crisis events.
The committee appreciates that there will be situations in the future
whereby public safety agencies will have to utilise commercial operators.
Indeed, there was no single submission or witness to the inquiry which contradicted
this view. However, the committee is mindful of the need to minimise reliance
upon commercial carriers for reasons including their limited resilience and the
considerable risks to public safety. Notwithstanding recognition of the
commercial carriers themselves of a civil duty to support public safety
agencies which is appreciated, the committee believes that any reliance upon
commercial operators should be minimised. Provision of 20 MHz of spectrum
is important in this regard.
The costs involved in the development and management of an effective and
interoperable national PSMB will be considerable. Costs stretch to updating
applications, utilisation of regular software releases and application of
patches and enhancements which require modelling and testing before deployment
into life networks. The committee appreciates that the operational costs
involved in what will be a live and highly dynamic network represent a
significant investment for operators.
However, the auctioning of spectrum in the 700 MHz band realised a significant
financial dividend. The committee supports the view that this dividend should
contribute to meeting the costs of securing a national PSMB network and
recommends that the Australian Government finance the provision of spectrum for
PSAs through the proceeds of the auction.
The committee understands that the US Government financed the spectrum
of law enforcement and emergency services out of the proceeds of the auction of
spectrum to commercial carries and that in Canada, spectrum is provided by the national
The committee takes a similar view as ultimately, public safety agencies
provide a critical public service.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government direct an
appropriate portion of the proceeds derived from the auction of spectrum to
fund the allocation of 20 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band for the purposes
of a national public safety mobile broadband network.
The Hon Robert
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