Australian Regulator Lays Out Spectrum Plan for Public Safety (12/3/12)
Monday, December 03, 2012 | Comments

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) announced a spectrum plan for Australia’s public-safety agencies, including 800 MHz broadband spectrum and narrowbanding the 400 MHz band. The cornerstone of the approach is the provision of an additional 60 megahertz of spectrum across a number of bands to facilitate the deployment of high-speed, nationally interoperable mobile broadband networks by the agencies.

“Australia’s public-safety agencies are critical to the safety and security of the community,” said ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman. “The ACMA places the highest degree of importance on providing spectrum to support dedicated networks that support public-safety operations.”

ACMA is making 10 megahertz of spectrum from the 800 MHz band available for the deployment of a nationally interoperable public-safety mobile broadband network. This band supports 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) systems and technologies.

A further 50 megahertz of spectrum from the 4.9 GHz band will also be provided for use nationwide by public-safety agencies. This spectrum is recognized internationally as a frequency band for use by public safety and other emergency response services. It is capable of extremely high capacity, short range, instantly deployable data and video communications. The band represents a supplementary capacity for the public-safety mobile broadband network in areas of high demand.

“These measures build on previously announced arrangements expanding capacity in the 400 MHz band and lay the foundation for the deployment of multilayer, flexible and interoperable networks,” Chapman said.

The ACMA will continue to work with public-safety agencies on the development of an appropriate licensing framework as part of the ongoing review of the 803 – 960 MHz band, with a discussion paper to be released in December. More information on the broadband plan is available here.

AMCA identified several segments at 403 – 470 MHz for the exclusive use of government, primarily to support national security, law enforcement and emergency services, but also available to support broader government use once the requirements are met. The ACMA said it developed the arrangements in close consultation with individual stakeholders, relevant committees and peak industry groups.

As well as substantial changes to the overall structure of the band through the creation of harmonized government spectrum and revised frequency splits, the outcomes of the review include improvements to underlying technical arrangements in the band. This includes a reduction in channel bandwidths and updates to the assignment and coordination rules.

Another key outcome of the review is an increase in the technology options able to be supported in the band. Changing the frequency duplex arrangements in the 450 – 470 MHz band and changing the channeling scheme opens up options for technologies requiring such arrangements, the ACMA website said. These systems were not supported under previous arrangements.

Australia’s 400 MHz band is mainly used for the land mobile service, but it also accommodates other services including the fixed (point-to-point and point-to-multipoint), radiolocation and amateur services. However, the 400 MHz band is congested in the major capital cities. In response to this and requests from industry and users of the band, the ACMA began a review of the band in 2008.

“ACMA believes strongly that dedicated harmonized spectrum of appropriate size and structure is critical to enabling interoperable radio communications between national security, law enforcement and emergency services,” the regulator said. “These spectrum arrangements are likely to mark the beginning of a new era in government radio networks, with the emergence of large, efficient networks that provide a greater level of support for emergency services and other vital government objectives than is currently the case.”

More details on Australia’s 400 MHz plans are available here.

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