Looking beyond this challenging year

Australian Radio Communications Industry Association

By Hamish Duff, President, ARCIA
Thursday, 10 September, 2020



Looking beyond this challenging year

Many things that we have taken for granted for some time have been upended by the 2020 pandemic. As it stands currently we are all hoping that we can get through 2020 and that 2021 brings a new year and a return to some kind of normal. Many people in our industry have been badly affected by the pandemic, and — while ARCIA has done as much as we can to help our members — the entire economy has been changed.

I would like to congratulate all those members of our industry — the technicians, installers, engineers, administrators, project managers and sales people — who are working on keeping the economy going. Our industry is part of the nation’s critical infrastructure, whether it is public safety, mining, utilities, transport or distribution centres. While we’re often overlooked, we all know our workforce is out there keeping the lights on.

Events

The 2019 Annual Gala Dinner will have been the Association’s last major event for some time. The event was well attended as always, and a great time was had by all. We have been running this event format for some time and we had decided to try something new for 2020. It goes without saying that when we are able to restart our regular networking events it will take some time to reorganise, but this is an opportunity to try some different styles.

For 2020 it is clear we won’t be having a major event in Melbourne. Once Comms Connect was cancelled, regardless of the situation in Melbourne the Association felt it would be difficult to get people to travel. At the time of writing the situation in Victoria is worse than anyone imagined and whether it will get better by November it is very unclear. The Association is working on how we can have some kind of national event, even if that means limited state events held on the same night. The industry does seek to recognise members at a state and national level and we know that peer recognition is highly regarded. So we need to find a way of continuing this in 2020.

One of the casualties of the situation has been Paul Davis. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Paul for everything he has done for the industry through Comms Connect; indeed he became part of the industry. With events shut down, people need to make difficult decisions and we will certainly miss Paul’s energy. He has been a driving force in helping not only to bring our industry together, but also to help bring information on important issues such as public safety mobile broadband into the knowledge banks of our industry, as well as our first responders and the bureaucrats involved.

Training

Training plans are really taking shape thanks to the work of Chris Stevens. In association with Comms Connect, the Association has now run many training sessions and they have been well attended across the country. Of course, we now need more content and direction to enable a greater number of members and employees to take advantage of industry-based education. While we all understand the program needs to be based on high-quality accepted standards, we all feel we simply cannot wait any longer for government to provide training. With the pandemic in full swing the federal government is trying again to invest in training, and ARCIA (thanks to Ian Miller) has written to the Minister for Employment, Skills and Small Business as well as the Minister for Communications.

ARCIA has developed a skills matrix to provide the framework for moving from apprentice to engineer, so that our members can look at the various skill sets that the industry needs. Over time the Association hopes to fill the gaps in training with content that we develop.

Developments

The ACMA has not stopped working during COVID-19 and there has been a constant flow of papers for comment in many areas of spectrum. Our thanks to Ian, who again put in a huge amount of work responding to the ACMA across the many bands that are being looked at. A consistent theme we have been applying is to ask the ACMA for transparency and for an appreciation that spectrum should be used as a productivity tool for the economy. There are many demands on spectrum and in many cases there are competing industry or government users, which makes balancing the needs of all users a difficult process. As new technology and spectrum-sharing models begin to develop across international markets, ARCIA believes that the benefits need to be shared across the economy. As technology for WISPs, private LTE or IoT transforms the way consumers and industry are able to use spectrum, the wireless industry will thrive.

We also expect to see new spectrum legislation in federal parliament during 2020, and ARCIA has met with the Department of Communications to be briefed on the changes to the Act. This appears to us to be evolution rather than revolution and ARCIA does not perceive any real impacts to our industry with the proposed changes. ARCIA has also met with the ACMA over the last months and has had productive consultations. We have brought matters to the attention of ACMA and they have responded quickly and effectively on all occasions, which is a credit to the ACMA management and also the excellent relationship that Ian Miller has built up over time.

When COVID-19 started to hit our economy and we all went into shutdown, the Association made the decision to extend member and partner renewal dates. We considered this on the basis that our main expenditure item on events would cease and that many of our members would appreciate the removal of even a small financial charge during these uncertain times. The finances of the Association are being maintained at acceptable levels; however, we do expect to recalibrate this decision soon so that we can be ready for 2021.

Hamish Duff

President

Australian Radio Communications Industry Association

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