Monday, 12 March 2018 11:04

Regional Australians ‘disadvantaged’ by latest spectrum auction: Labor Featured

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The move to 5G mobile services in regional Australia and metropolitan areas has taken a further step forward with the Federal Government’s announcement that 125 MHz of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band will be sold at competitive auction.

But the Government’s announcement has drawn criticism from the Labor Party’s Shadow Minister for Regional Communications and Regional Services Stephen Jones why says it’s time for the Minister for Regional Communications, Senator Bridget McKenzie, to “step up in the interests of up to 200,000 regional Australians who stand to be disadvantaged by the planned 3.6GHz spectrum auction”.

Under the plan announced by the Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield 125 MHz of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band will be sold at competitive auction, paving the way for new 5G services in metropolitan and regional Australia.

“I have carefully considered the implications for regional Australians in making this decision, and the declaration provides protections for incumbent users in the band while ensuring Australia is well-positioned to take advantage of 5G technology in years to come,” Minister Fifield said when announcing this latest spectrum auction.

The Minister’s declaration for the 3.6GHz band followed recommendations for the new spectrum to be released from the independent spectrum regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The ACMA’s recommendation was informed by an extensive public consultation process which commenced in October 2016.

In his criticism of Senator McKenzie and the Government’s decision, Stephen Jones maintained that regional-based Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) continue to be locked out of discussions with the Government on the allocation of spectrum.

“Labor supports the planned spectrum auction and welcomes moves to clear the way for higher-value 5G services but believes the very real concerns of the WISPs have not been adequately addressed,” Jones claims.

“The ACMA proposal for WISPs to move to the 5.6GHz spectrum used by the Bureau of Meteorology is highly problematic.

“Squeezing WISPs onto a narrow band of spectrum currently used by BOM for an essential service such as weather radar is not without risks of interference.”

Jones posed a series of questions for Minister McKenzie, asking whether she was “satisfied the ACMA has done all it can to find like for like spectrum for the WISPs?”

According to Jones there is a serious risk that the 200,000 regional Australians who rely on WISP services will be worse off and questions whether the Minister is “satisfied that booting the WISPs out of the 3.6GHz spectrum won’t result in a loss in quality of broadband, or a loss of jobs, in the bush?”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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