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Australian spectrum plan a win for carriers

Emergency services elbowed up to 800 MHz band

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Australia’s attorney-general has re-ignited the carriers-versus-emergency-services, creating a steering committee to develop a mobile broadband plan for public safety agencies.

As spectrum is vacated in the digital TV rollout, Australian carriers have been drawing their wagons into a circle around the newly-available radio frequencies. In what looks like a win for telcos, A-G Robert McClelland has specifically identified the 800 MHz band as the target for the steering committee’s deliberations.

Carriers had been arguing that public safety users should be given spectrum in the 800 MHz band, viewing 700 MHz spectrum as more attractive for new commercial mobile broadband services. However, an 800 MHz deployment would dent Australia’s ability to use globally standardized 700 MHz public safety systems.

In the US, for example, the whole 108 MHz of spectrum from 698 MHz to 806 MHz has been designated for public safety applications.

McClelland said the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) current 800 MHz spectrum review “presents the opportunity to build a new dedicated mobile broadband capability for emergency response organisations”.

The steering committee will include representatives from state police forces, the Australian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council, the Council of Ambulance Authorities, the National Counter Terrorism Committee, and the ACMA.

The committee will be asked to identify how much spectrum emergency services need, develop an implementation plan, and consult with industry stakeholders (presumably, this means organisations already holding 800 MHz spectrum, and who may need to vacate the band in favour of emergency services). ®

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