Date Published: 11 Feb 2011 9:07am
Over the Christmas period AFAC worked with the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA) and the Council of Ambulance Authorities (CAA) to have a joint voice in relation to the issue of public safety agencies having dedicated digital dividend spectrum to ensure sufficient broadband data networks exist to support the critical business needs of emergency services.
The three Associations expressed concern that the Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) are not proposing to reserve any of the 700 MHz Digital Dividend for public safety agencies.
They expressed the view that the suggestion that public safety agencies requiring access to the 700 MHz band can enter into commercial arrangements with the major carriers of communications services in that band does not fully recognise how community safety is delivered both during major emergencies (eg bushfires, floods, terrorist incidents, etc), major events (eg New Years Eve, CHOGM) and on a daily basis. Commercial providers cannot and would not be able to account for public safety needs as they are not dimensioned to meet critical requirements especially during high use periods when their servics can congest to the point of failure.
Reserving access to the 700MHz band has the potential to advance the fully effective communications and interoperability between emergency service agencies, particularly given recent Royal Commission, Coronial Investigations and other significant public Inquiries have examined communication issues within and between emergency services in detail.
European and United States standards agencies are targeting the 790-862 MHz band for public safety broadband communications. These two markets will drive equipment research and investment by manufacturers and for these reasons, it is essential that Australia is aligned with the public safety frequency allocation in these jurisdictions.
The government is urged to allocate sufficient 700MHz spectrum, consistent with the frequency ranges that have been requested in the USA and Canada (and proposed in Europe) to ensure emergency services can deliver their essential services without being beholden to, or compromised by, the vagaries of commercial providers.