Key messages about Australia's PSMB capability
“Australia has caught up to the rest of the world with public safety mobile broadband.” That was the way Department of Home Affairs Assistant Secretary Luke Brown began his keynote presentation at the Comms Connect Conference in Melbourne last November. In his inimitable manner, he went on to explain the progress being made to provide Australia’s public safety agencies with a public safety mobile broadband (PSMB) capability that meets the needs of these agencies, as determined by and agreed to by the state and territory governments.
Brown explained that these needs have been documented as high-level requirements and used in the PSMB request for information (RFI) released in late 2017. Likewise, the RFI took a functional rather than a technical approach to seeking information, which was subsequently used in the Request for Proof of Concept Proposals released in October 2018 (and which closed in late December 2018).
This course of action had been taken because traditional procurement processes will not work for this form of technology and service delivery, Brown said, and therefore both governance and procurement arrangements needed to be able to flexibly respond to rapid changes taking place in technology capabilities.
Brown said that the PSMB capability will be a federated model that will use a common core to provide the ability to accommodate different needs, implementation timings and budgets of the states and territories. And for the first time in Australia, a multivendor approach is being taken. Brown added that governments need to be more innovative in their planning procurement processes, in order to build partnerships that include skills development and training in the technologies. He also made the point that partnerships with countries developing a PSMB capability will be essential to the sharing of information and lessons learned.
Brown went on to say that governments have been late in discussions with standards development organisations and there is work to be done in 2019 to engage in the 3GPP standards process for mission-critical communications. He added that the 3GPP event hosted by the University of Melbourne Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety in September 2018, facilitated the commencement of these discussions with 3GPP and that these types of events will continue to be supported. Brown acknowledged the work done by the University of Melbourne to identify the PSMB capability as a significant policy gap in Australia’s emergency management capability.
Brown also said that the government was happy with the level of engagement with industry in respect to the PSMB Request for Proof of Concept proposals, and the results from the Proof of Concept trial will enable the states and territories to finalise their business cases to enable the PSMB project to proceed.
This year should see the establishment of a dedicated PSMB Project Management Team located within the NSW Telco Authority that will function on behalf of the states and territories, and an examination of the most appropriate form of PSMB governance arrangements. An approach to the market for the PSMB capability should be expected in the 2020–21 financial year.
In response to questions from the audience, Brown noted that there is no connection yet between the PSMB capability and Next Generation Triple Zero. The Department of Home Affairs is responsible for the PSMB capability and the Department of Communications and the Arts is responsible for Next Generation Triple Zero. He said that the government is taking very seriously the high-profile Triple Zero service outages that occurred in 2018. He added that, within the Department of Home Affairs, Emergency Management Australia is working on a national program for the public safety communications ecosystem, and that Australia will seek to leverage the excellent research work being done by the US Public Safety Research Program to support PSMB projects globally.
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