The comms industry needs a strong regulator

Australian Radio Communications Industry Association

By Hamish Duff, President, ARCIA
Monday, 13 January, 2020

The comms industry needs a strong regulator

Well folks we made it; it’s 2020. We now all have flying cars, jet packs, robot housekeepers, no more paper and our lives are defined more by leisure than work. Communications is of course now universal, all modes, anytime, anywhere. We are now living the life imagined in The Jetsons.

Well, maybe not. Although we see change happening right in front of us, perhaps the pace of change is just not as fast as many people had predicted it would be.

In our communications world there is tremendous buzz around 5G, and with good reason. However, the reality is that there are years of iterative changes still to take place. The same can be said for the LMR landscape. The promise that LTE will transform communications into some new nirvana has been replaced by the realisation that change takes time, plus a lot of financial investment before the full benefits of 5G will be available to everyone.

The LMR industry must evolve with these changes if we are to remain relevant. New and improved technology will transform the way we can deliver services, as I believe the demand for critical communications will not disappear. The way our industry delivers services will change as new technology enters the marketplace; the current trend of data replacing voice will continue and become more prevalent in LMR as well as on other platforms.

ARCIA believes our role as an industry group is to promote the industry widely, especially for access to spectrum. ARCIA continues to prosecute the argument that private networks require access to spectrum, regardless of the chosen technology or location. As we watch other markets introduce new spectrum mechanisms to deal with the need for innovation, it is very disappointing to hear from both government and business in Australia that spectrum sharing is not viable.

Of course people do not want change; they want to protect what they have now. But I think it is rather extraordinary for some to argue that spectrum sharing is not acceptable considering the raft of changes that have occurred to all bands over the last 20 years. Having accepted that broadband is a vital community asset, to then argue that only some entities can be trusted to deliver these services is disingenuous at best. The point of new technology is to open new markets and ultimately to provide community benefit by using wireless technologies to lift productivity for everyone.

While I argue that we need to embrace new technology, we must also have a strong regulator to maintain standards and compliance. The federal government seems to think that reducing costs and capacity within the ACMA is a good idea. I would argue strongly that, considering the benefits that wireless technology brings to Australia, this is an area we should be investing in. Our modern world is underpinned by engineering and data. The array of new wireless technologies based on massive edge computing power is growing and I don’t see the ACMA having an ability to keep up with it.

It is high time for the government to recognise the huge growth that will come from technology and the wireless spectrum. With this realisation there should be investment in the resources of our spectrum manager and not continuing pressure to cut costs under the guise of productivity gains. Personally, I am a believer in low regulation and letting market forces apply, but we run the risk in Australia of no regulation… plus we also run the risk of losing the effectiveness and efficiency of our valuable spectrum if it is not managed properly.

ARCIA will commence 2020 with two days of planning in Brisbane, where will bring together the committee and partners to set the tone for this year. No doubt we will again be running all our events and you will read more about those over the course of the year. We are always keen to hear your thoughts on our events; we can only continue to improve them if you give us some feedback, positive or negative, which is valuable to us for our planning.

With the success of the training events in 2019 you can look out for more ARCIA-led training. Please make sure you support these events and send your people along, plus also please continue to support Comms Connect and consider sending your staff members along to at least visit the exhibition. It is the best investment for increasing the knowledge of your staff and letting them realise just how broad our industry really is.

Hamish Duff


Australian Radio Communications Industry Association

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