Recent disasters must be catalyst for change

By Hamish Duff, President, ARCIA
Monday, 02 November, 2020

Recent disasters must be catalyst for change

As we head into the last stage of 2020 we are now beginning to see some encouraging progress on the COVID-19 pandemic. Australia is indeed a lucky country and, despite the unfortunate circumstances in Victoria, as a country, we have done very well. ARCIA wishes all our members and families the best as we navigate our way into 2021. I sincerely hope that we continue to stay relatively virus-free and can begin to rebuild our economy.

Along with all our industry partners, we submitted substantial information to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements earlier in 2020. The Royal Commission has provided a set of preliminary recommendations; public safety communications was included along with commentary on both LMR and public safety mobile broadband.

What stands out here is the driving need for public safety to have new investment in unified standards, networks, equipment and all the things that go into mission-critical networks. This investment needs to enable the agencies to do their jobs, anytime, anywhere, including near or across state borders.

This is not a technology problem; technology has had the solutions for many years. Rather, it is the will for government agencies to work together that is holding the solutions back.

ARCIA really hopes that state and federal governments can find a way to move forward on this. In NSW, the Government Radio Network started in the late 1980s with the promise of a state-wide network following in the 1990s.

When will NSW have a true state-wide network for public safety? Empty words and submissions to enquiries don’t help. Maybe Australia needs to treat the natural disasters of 2020–21 like the USA used the September 11 tragedies as the catalyst to develop FirstNet. Let this past summer be the catalyst to get everyone thinking and working together to solve the public safety communications problems.

Maybe it needs to be a staged approach to fit within the financial limits of a smaller population in a big country, but at least let’s set out a logical program and work towards it… beginning now!

On this matter I think another point needs to be made. What is becoming clearer every day is that LMR technology will be part of the communications landscape for a long time to come. When you look at other markets such as the UK and USA, you can see that while LTE is proving to be a game changer for critical data, there are just too many circumstances where LTE does not fully replace LMR.

Despite the predictions of some pundits that LMR will be replaced, global markets for LMR are still growing. There are now many suppliers (including my own business) offering radio-like functions on mobile devices; they are very useful but they don’t come close the performance of dedicated LMR devices and systems. For many consumers their needs are perfectly meet by PoC devices; equally, however, for many users they are just not up to standard.

So it seems clear that a wide range of systems, devices, standards and suppliers will continue to provide services to the market, and from ARCIA’s point of view this is a good thing. With this in mind we believe that members of our trade will continue to be needed whatever the underlying technology. Remember, all of these technologies rely on radio, and as we have outlined for several years, it is our industry that understands radio best. ARCIA is working on how we can provide direct training to our members on subjects that will provide benefits to our members across all sectors.

ARCIA is pleased to announce that we will hold a virtual annual event on the afternoon of 27 November. The intention is to bring our members together in workplaces all over Australia to recognise our industry, with that day therefore also featuring our regular annual award presentations. The event will run over a shorter-than-usual format. We encourage workplaces to get teams together to recognise our industry achievers and to also realise that we are a critical part of the Australian economy. We hope this will enable many more members who might not normally be able to attend the Melbourne dinner, to get involved.

Keep safe everyone.

Hamish Duff


Australian Radio Communications Industry Association

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