5G mobile technology will operate on different bands of radio waves (spectrum bands) in a higher frequency to the bands used for previous mobile technology generations. The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) explained that ‘5G is a brand name. It's not an actual physical quantity, the same with 4G before that. The actual physical quantity is radio waves’.
The higher frequency ‘millimetre wave’ band (mmWave) will be used as frequencies carry more data the higher in the spectrum they are, however, they are less able to penetrate buildings. New equipment and infrastructure will need to be deployed in order to allow the mmWave to be used for 5G.
Australia’s mobile communications infrastructure will require significant investment from carriers like Telstra, Optus and Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) in order to carry 5G mobile technology. Carriers stated that government and industry would need to work together to achieve a successful deployment of 5G, and some policy challenges would need to be addressed.
The design of mobile networks will need to change, and will continue to use towers with transmitters for wide area coverage, but use a greater number of small cells, which are generally mounted on existing infrastructure (e.g. light and power poles) and have lower power output.
Design and logistical challenges of rolling out such a large scale upgrade were raised by inquiry participants involved in the telecommunications industry. Communications and Information Technology (CITT) stated that 80 per cent of cellular mobile traffic occurs indoors, which may lead to issues given the move to the mmWave.
A significant number of inquiry participants outlined their concerns over the deployment of 5G. These inquiry participants raised concerns over the potential health effects, the impact of 5G on the environment, and fears over privacy and security. Many inquiry participants perceived that radio frequency radiation has toxic effects for living organisms which will be amplified by the use of 5G.
A large body of information was received from inquiry participants which detailed their strong fears that the spectrum bands used for 5G will adversely affect their health, and is, for example ‘as dangerous as chemicals, asbestos and other pollutants’.
In December 2019, the Australian Government announced measures to ‘build public confidence in the safety of telecommunications networks – including new 5G mobile networks’. The measures will also work to ‘address misinformation about electromagnetic energy (EME) emissions which has caused concern in some parts of the community’.
Additional scientific research and further public education will be conducted by ARPANSA as part of the measures.
Radiofrequency spectrum is planned and managed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in accordance with the Radiocommunications Act 1992. Spectrum is a finite resource which ‘underpins mobile telecommunications and affects service quality and cost’.
The ACMA stated that 5G ‘emerged as one of the major drivers of change to spectrum demand and existing spectrum arrangements’ and called 5G’s range of bands ‘unprecedentedly wide’. New frequency bands will be supported, and existing spectrum bands optimised for 5G use.
Inquiry participants noted the addition of high and low frequency bands for 5G in order to deliver coverage and support use cases. The Department of Communications and the Arts (the Department) explained that signals can travel a longer distance at a low frequency, but will carry less data. Signals travelling at high frequencies can carry large amounts of data, but over a shorter distance.
The ACMA identified the ranges of spectrum bands as Sub-1 GHz, 1-6 GHz and above 6 GHz. Each of these bands will require a specific approach by the ACMA because each has its own features, including:
international harmonisation and standardisation;
legacy planning and allocation arrangements; as well as
Figure 2.1: Spectrum for 5G mobile technology
AMTA and CA, Submission 335, p. 22.
Ericsson stated that Australia’s 5G deployment would benefit from the amount of spectrum available for 5G:
…from a spectrum point of view Australia is pretty world leading in terms of how much spectrum we've allocated for 5G. Some of that has been because that spectrum was already in market and deployed at a time when it wasn't considered for 5G use.
The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association and Communications Alliance (AMTA and CA) estimated that ‘each mobile operator will need additional low band spectrum, around 100MHz of mid band spectrum and an initial 1GHz of mmWave spectrum for 5G to reach its full potential and deliver what it is designed to do’.
AMTA and CA called for a ‘pipeline of new spectrum’ to be made available for 5G, and for reviews of technical frameworks to be progressed ‘so that in-market spectrum is ‘fit for 5G’ and is critical to meet forecast demand’. AMTA and CA suggested that ‘[f]urther work is needed in relation to existing bands to enable the deployment of 5G services, including reallocation of low band spectrum and licence reform in mid band spectrum’, including the 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz and 2.6 GHz bands.
Current focus is on the mid-band, between 1 and 6 GHz, and 125 MHz in the 3.6 GHz band has been allocated for regional and metropolitan areas through a spectrum auction conducted by the ACMA. The ACMA has begun a broad review of arrangements in the 3700 to 4200 MHz band, and has completed planning decisions for the 26 and 28 GHz bands. Low band spectrum, below 1 GHz, is being optimised, and additional spectrum will be made available for mobile broadband in the 850 MHz band.
GSMA recommends governments ‘should avoid inflating 5G spectrum prices’ and consult with 5G stakeholders ‘to ensure spectrum awards and licensing approaches consider technical and commercial deployment plans’.
The Australian Government has participated in international discussions on harmonisation of spectrum, including through the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), to coordinate the frequency bands used for 5G around the world. The Department, along with the ACMA, attended the WRC in October 2019 to represent Australian interests.
Professor Jock Given stated that ‘one of the issues with the full exploitation of 5G is how rapidly our spectrum regulatory system can really adapt to changes in the way spectrum is used’. Professor Given set out that 5G introduces significant changes to the way that spectrum will be used by handsets by changing the current system of ‘frequency-division duplex’ (using paired channels between a base station and mobile device, with one channel used to take information out and another for the reply coming in) to ‘time-division duplex’ (where one channel is split in time, with one second ‘talking’ to the base and the next second ‘listening’ for the reply):
What's been happening as these technologies have evolved is that the old long-term arrangements that the regulators made and the private sector has bought into have become redundant. They've become suboptimally designed for the new technology. Channels can be too narrow. Geographical areas can be too small. The spectrum could just be in the wrong place.
Professor Given suggested ways to reform spectrum legislation:
simplifying the processes for creating spectrum licences;
giving the ACMA greater flexibility to create and issue new licences;
empowering the ACMA to offer a different licence rather than re-issue a licence following its expiry;
reform of the tenure of apparatus licences and reallocation procedures for apparatus licenced spectrum; and
review the rule for end-of-term arrangements for spectrum licences.
Carriers considered that the deployment of 5G would require coordination and partnerships between government and industry, as well as significant investment in technology and equipment. VHA stated that the deployment:
…will require a co-ordinated policy approach from all levels of government, working with industry and across key portfolios, to ensure that policy and regulatory settings support the efficient deployment of networks.
Telstra also made the point that the regulatory framework for 5G needs to be ‘fit for purpose’ and encouraged the ‘required investments in this new technology’. Telstra highlighted its spending on mobile network infrastructure in the last five years, and noted that 5G would require around the same amount again with ‘significant annual investments’ for ‘some years beyond that as we build out 5G across our metropolitan and regional mobile coverage footprint’.
VHA, along with AMTA and CA, advocated for ‘timely spectrum allocation’ and broad community support for the economic and social benefits of 5G. Similarly, Optus commented that although 5G deployment has begun, the benefits of 5G are not assured. Optus stated that:
Many of the truly transformative services will depend on the deployment of a radically different network architecture and new spectrum. This will require significant investment in network infrastructure, systems and technology in circumstances where future revenue streams are unclear.
Further, Optus drew attention to policy challenges, and considered that there may be barriers to achieving the potential promised by 5G, including:
access to spectrum, including fast-tracking reform of existing bands to enable them to be used for 5G;
rules for deployment which suited large macro sites but may not work as well for 5G infrastructure;
the need to address EME safety concerns;
significant upfront investment requirements, and the need to ensure that the 5G market will be sustainable and competitive;
allocations should focus on competition and use of spectrum, not on auction revenue raising; and
licences should be issued with presumption for renewal.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) also considered that a successful rollout of 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) will require partnerships between government, industry and the community.
The Internet of Things Alliance Australia (IoTA) echoed calls for close collaboration for the deployment of 5G:
A greater level of involvement and collaboration will be required between network operators with fellow network operators land managers; including federal, state and local jurisdictions – especially in congested urban environments. This is required to underpin practical, well understood, repeatable, guidelines and processes for 5G base-station deployment.
The Committee also notes that the Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Mr Rod Sims has observed:
High revenues [from spectrum auctions] may be attractive for government, but they can be detrimental to competition in downstream markets if operators overpay at auction. High spectrum costs may impact the financial sustainability of operators...
Physical Infrastructure, Hardware and Equipment
Developing 5G testing models in Australian cities has highlighted some potential issues with the large-scale deployment of 5G infrastructure. The proposed locations of 5G infrastructure, how to track redundant infrastructure, and the significant capital investment required were raised as potential challenges. Concerns were also raised over whether Australia currently has enough skilled workers to achieve the 5G rollout efficiently and the value of manufacturing 5G equipment within Australia.
The physical infrastructure for 5G will use both small cells and macro cells. Small cells have been widely used since the rollout of 3G, using a ‘smaller and lower-powered base station equipment to either provide localised coverage or supplement the capacity of macro cells’. The number of small cells to deploy 5G will be high, with Optus noting that ‘to offer 1 Gbps [Gigabit per second] speeds, cells would have to be around 200 to 300 metres apart’.
Small cells will provide ‘additional capacity and coverage over a small geographic area, utilising lower power than a traditional mobile phone base station and using smaller equipment’, and will complement the macro network.
Macro cells cover larger areas than small cells, typically reaching ‘from a few kilometres to several tens of kilometres’. Macro cells for 5G will use Massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antennas that will be able ‘to send and receive data simultaneously’. CITT stated that macro cells form the core of current Radio Access Network (RAN), and have ‘already evolved to support the increasing data transfer demands of the 3G and 4G environments’ with the addition of antennas.
AMTA and CA stated that due to the low visual impact of 5G cells, the presence of this infrastructure ‘wouldn’t be noticed’ by ‘the majority of the public’:
One thing to bear in mind is that small cells are not new. They've been around for decades. We used to call them microcells. They're in the environment now. Most people don't even notice them. The sort of infrastructure we're actually talking about, and that you're talking about the opportunity to co-locate and share, is of the nature where there is very little visual impact in the first place. The compromises you need to make to co-locate or share infrastructure are not necessarily required, simply because the infrastructure itself doesn't warrant you making those compromises, and there are potentially significant compromises in doing it.
The rollout of 5G will involve navigating state and local government planning laws and regulations, arranging site access and the use of relevant utilities.
VHA stated that the implementation of cell deployment is hindered by ‘infrastructure deployment rules designed for legacy infrastructure’ and that ‘[r]eforms to deployment rules are needed as a priority to ensure the timely and efficient deployment of network infrastructure with minimal impact on communities’. These concerns were shared by the Queensland Water Directorate, which stated that ‘we don’t want management of [legacy infrastructure] to get any worse than it is’ in the process of new utilities being rolled out due to the adoption of 5G.
The IoTAA stated that there would be challenges to deploying the mmWave across busy landscapes:
The 5G millimetre wave radio spectrum is less tolerant of physical encumbrances, compared with lower frequency bands and will as a result require greater ‘line-of-sight’ placement of base stations and will be more affected by local environment changes e.g. signage, trees and changes in building landscape for example.
City of Melbourne and City of Sydney raised that trees may have an adverse effect on the performance of 5G by hampering the millimetre wave spectrum, but stated that they ‘will not be willing to sacrifice trees in favour of network performance’, and that ‘sustainable ways to advance the use of technology’ must be found.
CITT explained that the deployment of small cell networks will require equipment to be installed at multiple sites ‘from roof tops to power poles, tramways poles and traffic lights.’ CITT drew attention to the need for skilled technicians to carry out the work:
While the skill sets required by technicians undertaking small cell roll-outs will not differ widely from those working in the macro cell environment, the logistics of deployment and consequently the overall range of skills involved may differ significantly.
CITT warned that Australia may be unable to meet demand for the construction, operation and maintenance of 5G networks ‘without the development of new training schedules and of mechanisms designed to ensure the quality of training outcomes’.
Ericsson identified the need for the workforce to continually update training:
…to make sure those attending training have adequate skills to actually move into jobs that are here and now and progress the transition…Ericsson have been heavily engaged in supporting the development and updating of the curriculum for 5G to make sure that TAFE and other training institutions have industry-ready candidates of graduates.
Ericsson cited a US$6 million grant by the Government of the United States of America to the Wireless Infrastructure Association to support 5G related apprenticeships.
Ericsson stated that although they are ‘struggling’ regarding the number of industry-ready job candidates, it has strategies in place to address this:
…we're working hard to try to ensure that those graduates that are coming through the system are adequately trained. The other part is making sure that our existing workforce has in-house training that is world class, leading and up to speed. It gives an opportunity for those existing Ericsson employees or our suppliers' employees to be competent in how to deploy 5G networks.
Main Roads Western Australia raised the possibility of a tension between the ‘commercial drivers of the carriers’ and ‘a safe, reliable and sustainable road based transport system’. Infrastructure maintained by Main Roads WA which may be attractive to carriers for locating 5G equipment on includes:
variable message signs; and
other road network infrastructure.
Queensland Transport and Main Roads explained that locating 5G infrastructure on utilities can create challenges and potentially affect safety for the public:
Small cell installations on street lighting, traffic lighting, signs and other road infrastructure assets can impact road safety, the structural integrity of the asset, electrical safety for the public in the event of the installation being impacted by an errant vehicle and the safety of operational staff undertaking ongoing maintenance.
Queensland Transport and Main Roads further set out that although carriers are required to act in accordance with ‘good engineering practice’ and follow the ACMA industry standards, carriers do not appear to be required to act in accordance with road engineering and electrical safety requirements.
As a result, in some circumstances it can be challenging to help carriers (and their contractors) understand and comply with good engineering requirements for road infrastructure, especially in the short timeframes provided under the Act.
In Queensland, the design, construction, maintenance and operation of relevant assets must be managed by a Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland who has appropriate road safety and electrical engineering experience. Queensland Transport and Main Roads stated that Land Access Notifications for installation and maintenance for 5G small cells ‘rarely have this critical road engineering information’.
Main Roads WA highlighted the significance of maintaining safety of assets such as street light poles if 5G equipment is added:
The issue is that the majority of our poles are slip based and they're designed to act in a certain way in the instance of a crash. There hasn't been the design applied to retrospectively adding equipment onto that, in terms of safety. It's been assessed potentially from a structural loading perspective, but we don't know how that item of infrastructure would react in the instance of a crash: would the pole continue to slip off the way it should do, and what would happen to the equipment under impact—would it leave the pole and would it become a secondary incident of, I guess, launching any communications infrastructure from the pole?
Main Roads WA suggested a collaborative, proactive approach, and stated that it could offer ‘opportunities for a variety of different locations’ which suited the department and carriers:
Consultation will allow us to provide advice to carriers about some areas such as whether existing road infrastructure is appropriate for co-location, road safety considerations, avoidance of future asset clashes, issues relating to traffic management, and safe access to the road network.
The existing good working relationship between Main Roads WA and carriers was raised, with a view to continuing to collaborate and find compromises. For example, Main Roads WA is working with carriers to find alternative opportunities to locate equipment on less risky infrastructure.
Inquiry participants raised the option of carriers sharing access to utilities. Owners and operators of telecommunications facilities are required to provide other carriers with access to telecommunications transmission towers, sites of towers and eligible underground facilities. This is ‘passive’ infrastructure sharing. ‘Active’ sharing involves sharing elements ‘such as the radio access network (including the base station, antenna, nodes, feeders), spectrum, transmission and core networks’. Roaming is an example of active sharing.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) stated that infrastructure sharing can save money and promote efficiency for operators, but can also raise issues with competition such as ‘risk of collusion, and reduced or distorted incentives for investment in shared infrastructure’.
AMTA and CA stated that the Mobile Carriers’ Forum is ‘the place where carriers principally come together to share all kinds of information to do with co-location, safety management, consultation processes and industry information that's provided to the public’.
Axicom was critical of the way that co-location is handled at the state level:
...the state and local governments do not seem to factor in the community benefit provided by the infrastructure as they seek to extract the maximum amount of revenue from the industry, charging annual rents which exceed the freehold value of the land each year and also extracting a co-user fee from every user of the site.
Axicom put forward an alternative method of pricing:
In our view, a more appropriate pricing would be a fixed percentage on the unimproved value of the land. The telecommunications industry are the ones who've invested in the infrastructure on that land—they insure it, they maintain it. There is a huge capital investment in that. The state and local governments are leasing a piece of land, so the pricing should reflect that.
In NSW, an annual rent is charged for communication facilities located on a standard site based on the type of occupation and the location of the facilities. The primary user of a site, who owns and maintains the communication infrastructure, will be charged the rent amount set out by the NSW Government, with a co-user of that site charged at 50 per cent of that rate. Co-users may also have to pay usage fees to the primary user of the site, but that is at the discretion of the parties involved.
In NSW, the rents charged are higher for the Sydney area than an area of low density. For example, renting a communication licence for a standard site in Sydney is around 4.5 times more expensive per year than for a low density area like any part of NSW not in a city or regional centre.
Axicom stated that it could be a ‘neutral host provider’ in rural areas, and help to increase competition for rural consumers:
…if we were to build a site as a neutral host provider, and if we can get more than one carrier on that site at the same time, it should make for a more efficient rollout of the equipment and reduce the costs for everyone. If we can provide fibre, the pole, the power and all those sorts of major costs that go towards building a new site—we've got a model that we've worked on where, if we get more than one carrier, we can reduce the cost per carrier. Then you would get competition in rural areas rather than just a single carrier building a pole for themselves.
Main Roads WA currently shares infrastructure with Telstra on an annual rent basis. The structure for providing carriers with access to infrastructure is under review, and may in future allow all carriers to enter into a top level agreement with a ‘mechanism to come to an arrangement on where infrastructure would be located’. Proactively suggesting suitable sites may also lead to opportunities for all parties.
Passive and active sharing have been features of the current and previous generations of mobile technology, but may not be feasible in the 5G environment. AMTA and CA outlined a technical challenge which could arise due to the nature of 5G networks and the necessary equipment:
One example of the type of technical challenge that can arise in active equipment sharing is the ability to build radio transmitters capable of spanning the spectrum holdings of multiple network operators. In the 3.6 GHz band, where operators are using 60-100 MHz, or worse, in the 26 GHz band where operators are likely to be using 800 MHz or more each, it is simply not possible to build a single radio system capable of spanning such a wide frequency range.
Further, AMTA and CA stated that the amount of customers and their geographic locations are unique to each carrier, and explained that:
As we move to deploying small cells, precise placement is critical for them to be effective. It will be rare that the needs of all carriers align for any small cell to a sufficient extent for sharing the small cell to be viable.
The ACCC is currently undertaking a review of the Facilities Access Code, focussing on whether the Code is adequately promoting co-location arrangements. The ACCC stated that when 5G is deployed in populous areas like cities or built-up areas, carriers will need access to dense fibre networks for ‘backhaul’.
Carriers’ Powers and Immunities
Carriers have powers under Schedule 3 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 which allow them to enter on to land to install and maintain facilities and inspect the land to examine its suitability for a facility. For low impact facilities, the powers and immunities framework also provides immunities from some state and territory laws such as planning.
The Department set out that the framework has ‘built in appropriate safeguards to balance the interests of landowners and the community with the need to provide telecommunications services’. These safeguards include, among other things:
do as little damage as practicable and restore the land;
act in accordance with good engineering practice, and comply with recognised industry standards;
make reasonable efforts to reach agreements with public utilities;
protect the safety of persons, property and the environment;
ensure the activity interferes as little as practicable with the operations of a public utility, roads and paths, movement of traffic and the use of land;
notify road authorities, the land owner and land occupier;
maintain records for overhead cable, underground facilities and towers;
adopt best practice design to minimise the degradation of the environment and visual amenity and minimise noise; and
take reasonable steps to co-locate facilities and cooperate with other carriers and public utilities undertaking similar activities.
City of Melbourne raised concern that the low-impact facilities determination ‘did not foresee this density of cells’ needed for 5G, and suggested that the cumulative effect of an increased number of small cells should be considered.
Queensland Transport and Main Roads stated that classifying 5G infrastructure as low-impact ‘does not reflect the added risk it has on road safety, planning and operations’ when co-located on road safety infrastructure. Queensland Transport and Main Roads highlighted some potential challenges:
Because carriers do not have to get TMR's [Queensland Transport and Main Roads] consent prior to undertaking an installation, the only avenue for TMR to prevent an inappropriate installation on a street or traffic light or other road infrastructure, is to object to it within five business days. If TMR does not object in time, the carrier is entitled to continue with the proposed activity. If Land Activity and Access Notices are to increase twentyfold over two years due to 5G proposals, this timeframe would make the number of applications unmanageable and five-day review/objection turnaround unreasonable.
The Queensland Water Directorate stated that ‘water utilities should effectively have first right of refusal about whether [5G] equipment is able to be placed on a tower’ on the grounds of possible public health risks which may arise.
More equipment will be needed to make 5G coverage contiguous. Street furniture in cities such as ‘lamp posts, park infrastructure and buildings’ can be used as an ‘opportunity to leverage these existing assets for small cell deployments’. Queensland Transport and Main Roads put forward that in respect of streetlight poles, traffic lights and road signs, ‘literally every pole’ could accommodate a 5G cell.
Box 2.1: Holistic rollout of 5G in Melbourne
City of Melbourne has led a 5G testbed precinct to model the rollout of 5G in Melbourne. Workshops with users, industry players, carriers and other stakeholders were run in 2019, and although the testbed ‘brought to light several issues with the deployment of 5G infrastructure’, City of Melbourne was positive about the ‘outstanding opportunities to leverage 5G and other next generation smart technologies’.
City of Melbourne said that their plans were ‘well underway’, and that the testbed would continue to teach ‘much more about the needs of the community, the city and service providers’.
ACCAN supported the initiative, and suggested that ‘this type of multi-stakeholder Testbed initiative could be widely adopted across Australia to ensure that 5G deployment provides equitable advantages throughout every sector of society’.
Removal of Redundant Equipment
The deployment of 5G is likely to see a significant increase in the amount of equipment located on state-owned and maintained utilities. The Queensland Water Directorate raised concern over ageing and redundant mobile equipment remaining on utilities as 3G and 4G are retired.
The Queensland Water Directorate explained some of the challenges in co-locating mobile equipment on utilities:
Our primary risks are around safety. There are public health risks associated with the operation of these towers while they have carrier equipment on them. These includes f[a]ecal contamination, which is infiltration through critters defecating on roofs and in holes in roofs; worker safety, which is the EME questions and generally experiences with poorly main[tained] safety diagrams and that kind of stuff; safe access to maintain roofs, which is evidence of cables over hatches and all that kind of stuff; and general asset management questions like whether the roofs have actually been designed for the structural loads that the equipment places on them.
Seqwater agreed, and added concerns over ‘unknowns’:
It's very hard when we've got a lot of overcrowding on some of these towers and we have a number of unknowns and we cannot locate the owners. In particular, in circumstances where carriers have actually plugged into our main switchboard and we can't do isolations, it can become problematic in emergencies and things like that.
AMTA maintains the Radio Frequency National Site Archive (RFNSA), which allows users to ‘search for Australian Mobile Network base stations to find Electromagnetic Energy (EME) Reports, site locations, carrier contact details for existing sites and community consultation information for new sites’. The RFNSA is used by utility providers, the National Broadband Network (NBN) and the New South Wales Telco Authority, and is publicly available.
Manufacturing 5G Equipment within Australia
The two leading suppliers of 5G equipment to Australian telecommunications companies, Ericsson and Nokia, both manufacture equipment in a number of locations around the globe. Ericsson stated that they have ‘a global production footprint’ with locations including the United States, Poland and China. Similarly, Nokia Networks manufacture their equipment in Mexico, China, Poland, India and Vietnam.
Neither supplier manufacture in Australia; Ericsson stated that although the company has, in the past, manufactured equipment in Australia, it does not currently do so as it is ‘not viable.’
That's a business decision that we make. It's to do with a lot of costs—transport costs, for example, costs associated with labour, which face not just Ericsson as a manufacturer but other manufacturing companies in Australia.
While being open to using equipment manufactured in Australia to increase competition in what is ‘effectively a duopoly’, VHA stated that the ‘difficulty of developing a new vendor…should not be underestimated’. Optus agreed that that exploring options for manufacturing within Australia would be worthwhile, however it is ‘more an issue for government’.
Handsets which will use 5G technology are still under development as the standards are finalised, although some are currently available through Telstra and Optus. Handset manufacturers with 5G smartphones currently available in Australia are;
It is expected that Apple will release 5G capable iPhones after the 5G network is deployed.
ACCAN addressed the reality of consumers purchasing a ‘5G handset’ while the network is still being deployed, and whether there is adequate communication of any increased or ongoing costs:
[We're] watching quite closely the advertising of new handsets, particularly because we want to make sure there's no misleading or deceptive conduct that's going on. There's always a lot of hype around a new technology… However, we have been quite concerned that it's in the fine print that the price is going to go up. And it's not always clear exactly how much it will go up…So we've been quite concerned about what will be the ongoing cost of 5G, and will it end up being a premium service rather than necessarily something that's affordable? Even if there are applications that come forward for people with disabilities, will they actually be able to afford the handsets—or the connected device, because it's not just handsets; it's obviously watches and things like that as well.
Further, while the network is in its infancy, opportunities to use the 5G capabilities of a 5G-enabled handset may be limited. ACCAN considered that a consumer may purchase a premium handset ‘potentially under the belief they'll be using 5G all the time…but not necessarily take advantage of that 5G for very much of the time’.
Costs of services
New pricing models, including latency and location-based charging along with surge pricing, were outlined by Nokia.
Vodafone Australia noted that their expectation was of lower costs for consumers as providers begin to experience a reduction in infrastructure expenditure:
…because you're substantially reducing the cost of deploying the infrastructure and delivering, again, better outputs because you're harnessing economies of scale on spectrum, on backhaul on towers and on antennas. So it should deliver substantially lower costs, and therefore that should absolutely be able to be passed onto regional consumers.
Network and Data Security
The security of the 5G network was identified by inquiry participants as an important aspect of the deployment, from the design to implementation and maintenance stages. ACCAN cited a recent study which indicated that around 20 per cent of Australians considered 5G to be a ‘potential data security risk’.
Nokia stated that cyber threats are ‘sophisticated and constantly evolving’, and highlighted that the nature of 5G as an end-to-end transformation of the wireless network may allow a greater scale of attacks.
Palo Alto Networks recommended that a priority should be placed on ‘ensuring 5G networks are secure and trusted by design’.
As Australia moves closer to a digitally connected 5G world, there are an increasing array of attack vectors – inside out, outside in, and roaming, to mention just a few. Infected “trusted” end devices become sources of inside out attacks, targeting external web sites, creating signalling storms, wasting bandwidth, and stealing data from users and providers.
Further, the convergence of mobile and fixed line networks may create cyber security challenges. Palo Alto Networks set out that although there may be additional concerns over security, a broad approach to security should be taken:
…mobile and fixed line networks infrastructures’ convergence can result in unsecure interconnectivity points, which need to be protected. Secure Wi-Fi and LTE access and handover challenges are additional problems…4/5G infrastructure security requires a holistic approach, where detection and prevention is the key ingredient to the infrastructure.
Palo Alto Networks suggested two important aspects of 5G security:
constant real-time visibility of traffic passing through the 5G networks of Mobile Network Operators and Internet Service Providers should occur, with cybersecurity threats within that traffic detected and stopped in real time; and
a high reliance on automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) should be designed into 5G networks.
Nokia stated that new use cases will require in-built security, and will need to use ‘automation, security orchestration, analytics and machine learning to detect and mitigate threats’. Nokia elaborated that:
The new 5G security approach integrates and automates 5G network security by treating the entire network as a sensor - data taken from existing systems is used to provide a much greater level of information.
The Things Network agreed with the need to have security in mind from the design stage, and explained that LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide-Area Network) technology is built with security in mind:
The data is encrypted using AES 256-bit encryption on two layers—both on the transport as well as on the data layer. It is considered a highly secure technology, but as with any technology there is theoretically a risk, largely around denial of service and other things such as metadata, but it is taken very seriously.
AMTA and CA noted that ‘network slicing’ has potential for services that require ‘guaranteed connectivity, security and reliability’. Network slicing allows networks to be segmented for an industry, business or application:
For example, emergency services could operate on a network ‘slice’ that is independent of other users…thus avoiding congestion and providing dedicated services.
CITT drew attention to the need for a greater workforce equipped with cyber-security skills in future.
5G Safety Standards
Humans have been exposed to electromagnetic energy (EME) in radiofrequency bands for over 100 years. Safe exposure limits are set by independent, publicly funded organisations; the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation (ICNIRP) and ARPANSA.
The current 5G network uses a similar frequency to 4G, but will move to use higher frequencies in future as it is expanded. ARPANSA stated that ‘[h]igher frequencies do not mean higher exposure levels’.
The Australian safety standards for exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) are set by ARPANSA, in line with standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation (ICNIRP). ARPANSA published the Radiation Protection Standard for Maximum Exposure Levels to Radiofrequency Fields – 3 kHz to 300 GHz (ARPANSA RF Standard) in 2002, and stated that:
The ARPANSA RF Standard is designed to protect people of all ages and health status against all known adverse health effects from exposure to radio waves… The ARPANSA RF Standard applies a precautionary approach in setting exposure limits. In order to compensate for uncertainties in the scientific knowledge, large safety factors are incorporated into the exposure limits i.e. the limits are set well below the level at which all known adverse health effects occur.
The standards are used by the ACMA to set exposure limits to EME, which includes radio wave exposure to the public from all wireless telecommunications sources. 5G radio waves will come under these standards by many orders of magnitude.
Operating frequencies for 5G are included in the limits set by ARPANSA, and are well below the levels at which harm may occur to people. ARPANSA, the WHO and ICNIRP have assessed that there is no established scientific evidence to support any claims of adverse health effects from very low RF EME exposures.
ARPANSA set out that radio waves are well-researched:
Radio waves are quite well understood. The only established health effect with radio waves are at the very high power levels that can increase body temperature. An example of that is your microwave oven at home. Enclosed within the microwave there are very powerful radio waves that make the water molecules within the food bounce really fast, and that creates friction, which creates heat. However, telecommunications, including mobile telephony, television, radio, wi-fi—anything wireless—operate at extremely low power levels.
Ionising radiation, such as x-rays and gamma rays, are able ‘to cause chemical changes by breaking chemical bonds. This effect can cause damage to living tissue’. ARPANSA stated that the radiation emitted by 5G is ‘non-ionising’.
The Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research (ACEBR) stated that as higher frequencies do not travel as far, 5G will result in ‘more superficial exposures which are mostly absorbed by the skin, as opposed to the deeper tissue exposures associated with 3G and 4G technologies’.
Further, an increased number of antennas will mean users are closer to the mobile phone base station, which means their devices can operate at reduced power, reducing users’ exposure. Beam forming technology provided by 5G directs the 5G signal directly to each user, which uses ‘only enough power required to get to the device’. Telstra reported that millimetre wave indoor small cells were able to provide ‘a much faster and a better response over 5G using the same power levels, but the EME levels were lower’.
ACEBR also explained that it is important to distinguish between power and frequency when discussing radiofrequency:
All of our research is based on understanding the effects of power and frequency. And by putting that together, when industry comes up with a new technology, whatever they want to label it, we can then use that knowledge to understand whether it's safe.
AMTA described the need for communication on health, and efforts taken to provide information to the public:
I would say we've done quite a lot. In this space you can almost never do enough. We've taken that very seriously. We understand people's willingness and interest in this issue. It's highly variable. Roy Morgan did a survey recently where it asked, 'Are you concerned about the health and safety implications of 5G?' Of those who responded, 75 per cent said no and 25 per cent said yes. So there is a chunk of the population that is crying out for information. We are doing our best to service that need.
Studies Noted by Inquiry Participants
Inquiry participants told the committee that they held concerns over exposure to 5G operating frequencies, and what were characterised as unknown risks to human health. Inquiry participants called for independent research to be conducted on the potential health effects of exposure to the frequencies used for the 5G network, and urged caution at the rollout of the network.
A number of inquiry participants noted the 5G Appeal, BioInitiative Report and report of the United States National Toxicology Program (NTP) which looked at the effects of radio frequency radiation on rats and mice.
The 5G Appeal contained four major issues: increased mandatory exposure to wireless radiation; RF-EMF have proven harmful effects; precautions; and safety guidelines protect the industry rather than health.
ARPANSA addressed each of the major topics raised in the 5G Appeal. On the first of the topics, ARPANSA put forward that ‘5G will not lead to a “massive increase” of exposure to radio waves in the environment’, and continued that:
…although we may be exposed to RF from various sources, it is close proximity to a particular source (e.g. when using a mobile phone) that will typically dominate the exposure. Measurement surveys have shown that exposure to RF radiation in the environment from various sources is very low and typically much lower than the allowable limit for safety in the ARPANSA RF Standard.
The second major point made in the 5G Appeal, that RF-EMF have proven harmful effects, was also addressed by ARPANSA:
Although there have been studies reporting a range of biological effects at low RF levels, there has been no indication that such effects might constitute a human health hazard.
ARPANSA rejected these allegations or hypotheses, setting out that for scientific evidence to be ‘deemed to be established’ it needs to be consistently and generally accepted by the broader scientific community. Studies must also be replicated, and consideration is given to studies from different disciplines which point to the same conclusion. ARPANSA stated that:
…health authorities around the world, including ARPANSA and the World Health Organization (WHO), have examined the scientific evidence for possible health effects from telecommunications sources. Current research indicates that there is no established evidence for health effects from the low level radio waves used in mobile telecommunications. This includes the upcoming rollout of the 5G network.
The 5G Appeal’s major issue regarding precautions was also addressed by ARPANSA, which stated that ‘ARPANSA assesses that the ICNIRP guidelines and the ARPANSA RF Standard already have sufficient precaution imbedded in their design’ and that ‘in order to compensate for uncertainties in the scientific knowledge, large safety factors are incorporated into the exposure limits’.
The 5G Appeal’s claim that safety guidelines protect the industry rather than health was assessed by ARPANSA, which stated that:
…there have been advances in the measurement of radio wave absorption by the human body and ICNIRP is currently revising its guidelines. ARPANSA is planning to revise its RF Standard following the publication of the revised ICNIRP Guidelines. Changes are expected to refine the maximum exposure limits and are not expected to impact exposure from telecommunications (including 5G) which tend to be much lower than the maximum exposure limits.
The 2012 BioInitiative Report was prepared by a collection of authors about possible risks from wireless technologies and electromagnetic fields. The report stated that:
Bioeffects are clearly established and occur at very low levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency radiation. Bioeffects can occur in the first few minutes at levels associated with cell and cordless phone use. Bioeffects can also occur from just minutes of exposure to mobile phone masts (cell towers), WI-FI, and wireless utility ‘smart’ meters that produce whole-body exposure. Chronic base station level exposures can result in illness.
ARPANSA addressed the BioInitiative Report and stated that it did not follow the health risk assessment approach performed by expert scientific bodies, presents selected research results ‘beyond those considered established by the mainstream scientific community’, and is not ‘an objective or balanced analysis of the scientific body of evidence’.
United States National Toxicology Program
The NTP conducted two-year toxicology studies in rats and mice to help clarify potential health hazards, including cancer risk, from exposure to RFR [Radio Frequency Radiation] like that used in 2G and 3G cell phones. The NTP noted that the types of RFR used for Wi-Fi and 5G networks were not investigated in their studies.
The exposure levels used throughout the study were equal to or substantially higher to that experienced by humans:
The lowest exposure level used in the studies was equal to the maximum local tissue exposure currently allowed for cell phone users. This power level rarely occurs with typical cell phone use. The highest exposure level in the studies was four times higher than the maximum power level permitted.
The NTP conceded that a comparison could not be made between the results found in rodents and humans:
The exposures used in the studies cannot be compared directly to the exposure that humans experience when using a cell phone,” said John Bucher, Ph.D., NTP senior scientist. “In our studies, rats and mice received radio frequency radiation across their whole bodies. By contrast, people are mostly exposed in specific local tissues close to where they hold the phone. In addition, the exposure levels and durations in our studies were greater than what people experience.
Mobile phone use and incidences of brain tumours
ARPANSA informed the Committee of a study, published in the British Medical Journal, which looked at the possible correlation of brain tumours with the use of mobile phones.
The study ‘examined the incidence time trends of brain tumour in Australia for three distinct time periods to ascertain the influence of improved diagnostic technologies and increase in mobile phone use on the incidence of brain tumours’ and found ‘no increase in any brain tumour histological type or glioma location that can be attributed to mobile phones.’
The Committee notes the significant interest in the inquiry from members of the public, who voiced their strong concerns over 5G deployment.
Some inquiry participants highlighted that concerns over the potential health effects of radio waves were not new. Mr Kody Finlay stated that ‘Radio frequency electromagnetic radiation has for quite some years been a point of argument about it's [sic] potential health effects on biological life’.
Inquiry participants raised concerns over the exposure of young children to 5G. Ms Sarah Arrowsmith wanted assurance that ‘there are no health risks to me and future generations’ and considered that thought should be given to school-aged children:
The government must also seriously consider the health implications of 5G in education while the current situation is that schools already expose children to EMF radiation at rates that far exceed the recommended guidelines for safe use with 4G devices.
Ms Elena Brennan stated that 5G may add to problems which come from over-use of digital devices, including:
reduced educational performance;
problems in interpersonal communications;
behavioural problems; and
depression, suicide and anxiety.
5G and Health
A number of inquiry participants put forward views that the deployment and use of 5G would have adverse effects on their health, and many submissions noted numerous concerns. Ms Tanja Price linked the following with exposure to wireless telecommunications radio waves:
Electro Sensitivity and Electro Hyper- Sensitivity (or radiation sickness), ADD/ADHD, Behaviour/Learning Problems, Concentration Issues, Memory Problems, Mood Issues, (depression, anxiety, irritability), Early onset dementia, Sleep Disturbances, Headaches, Muscle/Joint Pain, Leg/Foot Pain, Fatigue and Weakness, Numbness and Tingling, Tremors and Muscle Spasms, Dermatological Problems, (itching/burning, facial flushing), Lowering of sperm count and infertility. Mutation of DNA.
Inquiry participants highlighted articles which associated telecommunications radio waves and adverse health effects. For example, Mrs Angela Kelly and Mr Dean Kelly, Ms Melissa Davey and another inquiry participant drew attention to articles which listed depression as a potential health effect, and Ms Lauren Dry noted an article which listed sleep disturbance, depression, fatigue and heart related problems as risks.
A number of submissions contained personal accounts of symptoms many attributed to exposure to radio waves used in wireless telecommunications. Ms Rosalyn McNulty, for example, stated that:
I suffer on a daily basis with a lack of concentration, tinnitus, vertigo, breathlessness, chronic sleep disorder, asthma, chronic fatigue, nausea, digestive issues, chronic pain, uncontrolled blood pressure and depression and when I turn on my Wi-Fi, which I now only do when I’m only using it, these symptoms are worse.
Ms Elizabeth Pender considered the impact of 5G on people who identify as having Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS):
Without adequate protection from radiofrequency radiation from a nearby celltower, I have very seriously disturbed sleep. This is currently seriously jeopardising my ability to return to a proper part-time role at work. I would like the committee to consider my experience that EMR impacts my health significantly, including sleep quality.
Electrosensitivity Australia is a community organisation which advocates for EHS to be recognised as a ‘functional impairment’, and put forward community fears over the scale of the deployment of 5G:
…try to imagine the fear and stress levels of people with EHS right now, at the mere thought of what will happen to them as a result of the deployment of 5G, where they will be unable to escape that which assaults them and makes them incredibly ill.
ARPANSA agreed with Electrosensitivity Australia that EHS is ‘not a medically recognised syndrome’, and added that:
While ARPANSA and the WHO recognise that the symptoms of EHS are real and can have a disabling effect for the affected individual, EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and the science so far has not provided evidence that RF exposure is the cause. The majority of scientific studies published to date have found that under controlled laboratory conditions, EHS individuals cannot detect the presence of RF sources any more accurately than non-EHS individuals.
ARPANSA noted that, to date, clinical studies have failed to prove the existence of EHS:
…there has been a range of double-blind placebo-controlled trials that have tested such individuals. What we mean by double-blind is they've exposed the individual to electromagnetic fields in a double-blind scenario. In other words, the person doesn't know when the exposure's on or off and neither does the researcher. In all of those trials, the individual hasn't been able to discern that the exposure has been on or off, even though they might report that they walk into a room and they can feel that the wi-fi is on and that's giving them a range of symptoms.
ACEBR has conducted studies in the past which failed to prove EHS, and has moved away from conducting testing to focus on research and communication.
Inquiry participants put forward concerns over the impact of 5G deployment on the environment. Ms Nina Stick commented that:
The earth’s living systems and cycles, and all of life that it supports, have evolved in the presence of the earth’s much lower electromagnetic environment and are vulnerable to the impacts of artificial EMR which differ in their toxic effects. The earth’s natural EMR is relied upon by wildlife for breeding, navigation and flight and survival.
Concerns over trees were raised by Mrs Martha Bridi Simcox, who stated that articles have shown that trees near cell towers are affected by them. Stop Smart Meters Australia Inc was concerned that trees may be cut down to improve the signal coverage of 5G, and questioned:
…how will trees, with their proclivity to block signals, be viewed? Will we find ourselves in the situation that trees are being pruned or cut down, not with regard to safety, but in order to facilitate wireless communications?
Similarly, Dr Don Maisch asked: ‘Will residents have to choose whether they prefer tree-lined streets or faster download speeds?’.
The potential impact of 5G on the bee population was also raised by numerous inquiry participants, with many referring to articles which state that bees are at risk. Ms Jude Nicoll stated that ‘the evidence suggests our dying bee population is connected to mobile phone use and the EMR (Electromagnetic Radiation) this produces’.
In a similar vein, Susannah Jones was concerned that bees may suffer adverse effects:
5G millimeter waves will be approximately the same size as bees and other similar sized insects. The pulses from these millimeter waves will send small shockwaves through the bees and damage their eyes, antennae and wings, as well as cooking them internally before they die. Our food production depends on these bees.
ARPANSA stated that there is currently limited scientific evidence that showed a direct link between telecommunications radio waves and flora and fauna:
There is limited research on the effects of electromagnetic fields on the diversity or abundance of insects or bees. The few ecological studies that do exist generally report little or no evidence of a significant environmental impact. The studies that do show an effect, such as the ones listed, suffer from poor scientific method and the reported effect of electromagnetic field exposure cannot be separated from other environmental factors.
Privacy and Security
A number of inquiry participants listed privacy and security as concerns they hold for the deployment of 5G. Ms Simone Glover put forward concerns over ‘data harvesting and increased potential for cyber hacking due to the interconnectivity and the Internet of things’.
Some inquiry participants were of the view that 5G would pose ‘a breach of privacy’, and may be used ‘as means of surveillance’. One inquiry participant raised concerns over the number of things connected to the internet in the future, such as televisions and refrigerators, and stated that ‘we need to have anti-virus and other security measures for our home computers to reduce our risk of hacking or identity theft, but these new devices have none of that protection’.
Other inquiry participants noted concerns over the following:
hacking of household objects; and
Communication of the Deployment of 5G
The communication of the technology, purpose, safety and utility of 5G has been ad hoc, and much has been left to advertising by the carriers, who may tend to point to faster download speeds and family use to explain the need to move to a new generation of technology.
Community confidence in 5G has been shaken by extensive misinformation preying on the fears of the public spread via the internet, and presented as facts, particularly through social media.
AMTA stated there was a need for more information to be provided to the public:
That need has come from, frankly, a high-level misinformation campaign that has been quite fearful in its presentation—particularly on social media, where outrageous things are being said. The government agencies have stepped up, the industry has stepped up and we are all working hard. We plan to carry that on for the foreseeable future.
ACCAN agreed that there is a need to understand the technology and benefits of 5G, and have engaged with AMTA to work on this. ACCAN highlighted the need for 5G communication to come from the regulators:
…we've been very pleased that the ACMA, the regulator in this space, has actually now also produced information on its website. We think it's much better for it to come from an independent government source. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't know about ARPANSA, even though we've obviously engaged with them for many years. They don't necessarily think, 'I'll go and look up ARPANSA's requirements and standards’, so the linkage with the regulator in the communications space directly with the ARPANSA materials is very helpful.
The Electromagnetic Energy Reference Group (EMERG) was formed in 1997 to provide a forum for ARPANSA to ‘engage with a broad range of stakeholders on EME’. EMERG provided input on a range of information products, including factsheets, revisions to reports and advice on studies aimed addressing public concerns.
Following a review conducted in 2019, ARPANSA found that EMERG ‘was no longer an effective means of engagement’ and ceased operation of EMERG, with all members advised on 25 November 2019.
In December 2019, the Australian Government announced a $9 million campaign to build public confidence in 5G, address some of the misinformation about EME and invest in new scientific research and public education. The Hon Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, and Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, and Youth and Sport, announced the funding to recognise ‘that there is significant community interest in being satisfied that rigorous safety standards are in place as new 5G mobile networks are rolled out around Australia’.
Minister Fletcher said that the current safety standards draw on ‘extensive scientific research into EME emissions, globally and in Australia, over many decades’.
The Committee notes the significant undertaking and expenditure required of carriers to deploy 5G mobile technology. 5G will change the nature of mobile network design, placement and integration, and will require collaboration between all levels of government and the telecommunications industry. The Committee heard that for 5G to be successfully deployed and used, partnerships and ongoing discussions will be key to ensuring that the best value is obtained from the next generation of mobile technology.
The Committee notes the importance of spectrum allocation in facilitating a competitive telecommunications market. The Committee heard evidence citing concerns about the impact of slow spectrum allocation on the potential rollout of the 5G network.
The Committee acknowledges that spectrum is a finite resource, and that competing interests, industries and priorities will need to be carefully balanced to ensure that needs are met. 5G will use parts of the spectrum which have not traditionally been used for telecommunications, and will fundamentally change the way that information is relayed between the base station and mobile device.
The Committee notes the work of the ACMA to undertake auctions of spectrum, and echoes the views of the telecommunications industry that the allocation of 5G spectrum be timely.
Ageing and Redundant Infrastructure
The Committee heard that as new equipment is installed, ageing and redundant equipment may become an issue. The Committee is concerned that redundant mobile telecommunications equipment from previous generations will be left in place while 5G equipment is installed on state-owned utilities and infrastructure. The Committee heard that there are risks involved in leaving old equipment in place, and that it is difficult to track down some owners to obtain removal permission.
The Committee considers that AMTA, as the operator of the Radio Frequency National Site Archive (RFNSA), may be suitable to take on a greater responsibility for redundant equipment on state-owned utilities. The Committee believes that utility and infrastructure owners who are not able to locate the owner of redundant equipment on their property should be able to apply to AMTA for removal permission.
The nature of 5G necessitates the installation of new equipment in locations that may not have previously hosted telecommunications infrastructure. 5G will require a more dense deployment of equipment such as small cells, and infrastructure sharing between carriers may not be possible, meaning road infrastructure and utilities which run parallel to roads (such as electricity and lighting infrastructure) will be required to host 5G units.
The Committee agrees with Queensland Transport and Main Roads and Main Roads WA that, where co-location of 5G infrastructure and equipment and road infrastructure is an option, there may be tension between the safety standards required by each party.
The Committee is of the view that the safety of people using the roads should be paramount for every industry involved in the deployment of 5G, and strongly encourages carriers to comply with safety requirements and carry out testing to investigate the reaction of infrastructure in a crash scenario. The structural loading of the pole hosting a small cell should be tested, and whether the cabling added for 5G will comply with safety standards.
Carriers and industry groups were repeatedly asked through the hearings about the steps being taken to explore and enact greater infrastructure sharing. While they indicated they were considering this, very little evidence was provided to demonstrate that this was the case.
Taking into account the likelihood that carriers will need to roll out a greater amount of small cell technology to ensure the effective operation of their 5G networks, it will be important that, wherever possible, effective infrastructure arrangements are utilised to help minimise the impact on urban environments.
Access to 5G in Regional Areas
The Committee sees great value in the deployment of 5G technology in rural and regional Australia, and is excited by the use cases presented by the agricultural sector. The Committee is concerned, however, that 5G will not be rolled out to regional areas until urban areas have been fully serviced. Other jurisdictions are successfully sharing mobile infrastructure between users to ensure adequate coverage in regional areas, and the Committee would encourage the adoption of this model.
Manufacturing of 5G Equipment
The Committee notes that the equipment required for the deployment of 5G is not manufactured in Australia. The Committee sees great value in encouraging industry to develop facilities within Australia to develop and build the equipment for use in Australia and internationally.
Australian-based manufacture would provide economic benefits to the nation as well as employment opportunities.
Supply Chain Management
Throughout the inquiry it was evident that 5G networks will have fundamental implications for all Australians, as well as the security of critical infrastructure. Cyber supply chain risks in relation to 5G have the ability to impact upon consumers and national infrastructure in unprecedented ways. It is the Committee’s view that it is incumbent upon 5G vendors to actively monitor their supply chain and for the Australian Government to provide strict guidance on this.
Community Concerns and Communication of 5G
The Committee has heard the concerns of inquiry participants, who voiced strong opinions on the deployment of 5G which are not necessarily supported by scientific evidence. The Committee notes that a number of inquiry participants have called for a moratorium on the deployment of 5G through a form letter.
The Committee understands that there are a number of concerns relating to fears over the safety of 5G, particularly relating to health, and that some people have identified as having EHS and are very concerned about the future of telecommunications.
Avenues for raising these concerns may have been limited for members of the public in the past, and the Committee has noted that inquiry participants may feel that they have not been heard previously.
The Committee notes the disbanding of EMERG and believes its continuation was warranted, in a time of heightened interest in EME issues. Given the Government’s announcement for an investment into a national community information campaign, the Committee believes this would be a useful component within any such campaigns. The Committee strongly urges that the body be re-constituted immediately or a suitable community consultation mechanism be implemented to take its place.
Better communication of the safety of 5G has been implemented by the Australian Government through the announcement of a campaign to build community confidence in 5G safety.
Current community engagement from the Department about 5G technology, including its rollout and safety, would benefit from additional resources and efforts, including targeted and evidence-based communications methods for a range of audiences.
ARPANSA and ACMA, responsible for the rollout and monitoring of 5G, have different mechanisms and levels of community engagement. There is an opportunity for these agencies to develop an integrated communication strategy. Better coordination of ARPANSA’s Talk to a Scientist engagement program and ACMA’s EME hub may lead to enhanced communication on 5G with the community.
The Committee recommends that spectrum allocation be finalised expeditiously and that the Australian Communications and Media Authority, in conjunction with the Department of Communications and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, investigate how future spectrum auctions can promote improved market competition for the benefit of consumers.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government facilitate discussions between carriers, network operators and utility and infrastructure owners for managing redundant and/or ageing telecommunications equipment.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government commence a review of the low impact facilities framework to ensure that its powers to encourage co-location of facilities and equipment are fit-for-purpose in a 5G environment. As part of this process, the Australian Government should begin reviewing carrier arrangements for 5G infrastructure sharing.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Communications and the Arts assess the suitability of current powers and immunities arrangements, especially in relation to the timeframes for raising objections, noting the likelihood of an increased number of installations for the deployment of 5G.
The Committee recommends that carriers work with state and territory road and transport infrastructure managers to ensure that safety standards are maintained.
The Committee recommends that carriers consider multiuser infrastructure sharing to ensure that rural and regional consumers benefit from 5G services in a timely manner, and ensure adequate coverage across all 5G spectrum bands.
The Committee recommends that carriers ensure rollout trials are conducted in regional and remote areas, and the Committee notes proposals for large scale trial with one of Australia’s most innovative farming regions.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government investigate ways to encourage the manufacture of 5G infrastructure within Australia.
This may be done initially via the Department of Industry, Science and Technology working with Australian telecommunications and related industry partners to examine how Australia could actively participate in the manufacture of components and equipment for use in the rollout of 5G networks - and that manufacturing partnerships be considered with Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States.
To help enable this, the Australian Government should establish a 5G R&D Innovation Fund to fast track the development and scale-up of alternative manufacturing approaches to reduce the duopoly dependency on 5G related equipment.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government conduct a review of current legislative arrangements enforcing network and data security for the supply of 5G equipment. Further, as part of this framework, it must be incumbent on vendors to enforce Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management throughout procurement, roll out and maintenance of the 5G network.
The Committee recommends that ARPANSA implement a suitable mechanism to consult with members of the community regarding the safe levels of electromagnetic radiation.
The committee, welcoming the Australian Government’s decision to establish a new community information campaign on 5G, recommends that the Government work closely with the ACMA to develop an integrated and comprehensive campaign that can respond to concerns raised about the new network.
The Committee recommends the Department of Communications and Department of Education and Training, review how current ICT curricula for roles in 5G related industries in TAFE, accredited training providers and tertiary institutions should be modified to ensure graduates are industry-ready.
The Committee recommends the Australian Government lift apprenticeships in the ICT sector apprenticeships to assist with the rollout of 5G in Australia.