Ensuring Australia is Ready for 5G

Chris Althaus


Preparing for the 5th generation of mobile technology (5G) is a major industry agenda that also requires Government engagement to drive relevant policy and regulatory reform.

Specifically, allocation of new radio-frequency spectrum resources combined with regulatory reform for mobile network deployment are imperatives needed to support the continued growth of Mobile Broadband (MBB) and 5G evolution.

Timely allocation of new spectrum resources as well as efficient roll-out of mobile infrastructure, requires thoughtful consideration and decision-making by policy makers. This will help create the environment that can fully realise the benefits of 5G.

In relation to these imperatives, AMTA and the Communications Alliance (the Associations) recently commented on the ACMA’s Five Year Spectrum Outlook 2016-2020 (FYSO), and noted the sense of urgency required to address pre-implementation requirements for the evolution to 5G.

As AMTA’s CEO, Chris Althaus notes, ‘the mobile industry is investing enormous amounts of capital in extending the current generation and looking to the future for 5G; the market is attuned to what’s happening, and demand in the 4G arena is continuing to grow. And 5G opportunities, as they emerge, are attracting an enormous amount of attention.”

As the market gains momentum and industry investment accelerates, the need for Government to be moving forward in parallel, is amplified. This requires Government to work with industry to optimise regulatory and policy settings so that Australia can continue to be a world leader in mobile.

The Associations strongly agree with the ACMA’s message of urgency, present throughout the FYSO, with respect to spectrum availability for MBB and future 5G services. The ACMA has consistently recognised that the demand for additional spectrum to support mobile telecommunications  continues to grow and we note the ACMA’s commitment to adapting to meet the associated spectrum management challenges this ongoing demand raises.

The Associations recognise the ACMA’s willingness to press ahead with work on additional MBB spectrum, taking into consideration the long lead-times anticipated and the importance of international harmonisation. These are just some of the factors identified in the ACMA's Mobile Broadband Strategy and Work Program.

Industry also recognises that the ACMA, via its contingency planning model for consideration of additional spectrum for MBB services, is prepared to monitor and respond to early 5G developments outside of the WRC-19 process, including rapid progression of bands to subsequent stages of the mobile broadband work program.

Taking into account the increasing global interest in the 3.6 GHz band for early 5G deployment, the release of the discussion paper on the band is an example of a near-term ACMA action supporting early consideration of spectrum for 5G in Australia.

On that note, while applauding the ACMA’s approach to a 5G future, Althaus also urged the Federal Government to step up its own game – specifically its ongoing review of Australia’s spectrum management framework, originally announced in mid- 2014.

AMTA’s CEO used the FYSO submission to underscore the importance of ongoing spectrum review and action. “We are very anxious to see the next stanza of the Spectrum Review – it is a critical component of driving not only the flexibility but also the certainty that we need that will underpin all the investment and anticipation of new business models in the 5G environment,” said Althaus.

“The spectrum review is an absolutely critical component and we’ve been very patient in providing feedback and commentary, but we’re very anxious to see the next output from the Government. We understand that is not too far away – but the new year has begun and we want the Spectrum Review to be a very major feature of discussions in the first half of 2017.”

AMTA fully recognises the significance of change and the huge impacts associated with 5G. Althaus notes that the benefits and changes associated with such technological advances, are unprecedented. As a consequence, this requires Government and all relevant stakeholders to mobilise their efforts efficiently and effectively, and within relatively tight timeframes.

“We are entering a new era with 4 / 5G, the implications of which are as fundamental as we’ve ever seen in telecommunications”.

We also acknowledge that when it comes to spectrum we are not the only game in town - just the one with impacts and implications that will increasingly touch every aspect of the economy and society’ said Althaus.

Ultimately the need for timely planning and preparation by Government is essential if industry is to efficiently progress the 5G evolution.

A robust spectrum strategy for MBB needs to encompass more than just a consideration of spectrum bands. We need a spectrum strategy that is based on a flexible and responsive domestic regulatory framework, and that also adopts a proactive approach to international engagement.

The Associations believe that liberalising the licensing framework under the Spectrum Review and assessing the opportunity costs for each band will enable more efficient spectrum use (for MBB as well as other uses) and improve Australia’s ability to realise the potential social and economic benefits enabled by MBB and 5G.

The Associations support the ACMA’s commitment to delivering spectrum in a timely manner to the highest value use and look forward to continued engagement on the ACMA’s work program and MBB strategy.

Full submission click here:

Any questions about the joint AMTA - Communications Alliance submission can be directed to Lisa Brown, Policy Manager, AMTA at 02 8920 3555 or lisa.brown@amta.org.au




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