Parliamentary committee says unsold 700MHz spectrum should be used by public safety agencies

24 Jul 2013

An Australian parliamentary committee has recommended that a portion of the country’s unsold 700MHz spectrum freed up as a result of the Digital Dividend be handed to public safety agencies. According to Computerworld, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement has suggested that communications minister Anthony Albanese issue a ministerial direction to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to allocate 20MHz of contiguous spectrum in the 700MHz band for a public safety mobile broadband network. In a report the committee also proposed that the minister ‘take appropriate measures to secure, for public service agencies, priority access to an additional 10MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz band for public safety purposes’.

The Police Federation of Australia (PFA) has been actively campaigning for the government to allocate 20MHz of the 30MHz in the 700MHz band that went unsold in the frequency auction that concluded in May 2013. However, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) was supporting a previous decision made by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) which said that spectrum in the 800MHz band would be utilised for public safety, with the unsold 700MHz frequencies to be put up for sale once again. With the report issued by the committee coming after an inquiry into the matter, the PFA appeared pleased with the outcome, with its president Vince Kelly noting: ‘The recommendations of this searching inquiry vindicate all the effort the PFA and its branches have put into the campaign over the past three years to get adequate spectrum for police and other public safety agencies which protect the public when critical incidents, crimes and terrorist incidents and natural disasters happen.’

However, as the committee has only issued recommendations, the communications minister could still elect to move forward with the original plans to utilise the 800MHz band for public safety purposes.