Satphone providers face tougher 000 access regime

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Satphone providers face tougher 000 access regime

Exemptions pared back.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is canvassing a proposal that would force all handheld satellite phone service providers to offer 000 emergency access from July.

The watchdog indicated in a consultation paper (pdf) that it has the backing of the Communications Alliance Satellite Services Working Group to make the regulatory changes, as long as "relevant technical and commercial considerations" are taken into account.

The change is based on a recommendation made in a 2011-12 Regional Telecommunications Review Committee report that also found federal government backing.

Under current regulations, a service provider "is required to provide 000 emergency call access if the service used to make the call is a satellite service, unless the call is transferred to a network other than an Australian-based terrestrial network", according to the ACMA.

That exemption will be tightened under the revised proposal. Significantly, all handheld satellite phones would have to be capable of 000 access from July 1 this year.

The only exemptions possible under the new regime would be for some "non-handheld satellite phone services", though the default would still be a requirement for 000 access.

"The proposal by the ACMA to exempt specified satellite services from the requirement to provide 000 access recognises, for example, that there may be circumstances where it may not be reasonable to require satellite providers to support 000 where end-users have little or no expectation that 000 will be accessible and where alternative arrangements for accessing emergency services exist," the authority noted.

"This could include, for example, high-level satellite services provided to commercial operators in the maritime and aviation sectors".

Comment is being sought by the ACMA up to March 28.

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