Govt raises 800 MHz prospect for Police broadband

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Govt raises 800 MHz prospect for Police broadband

Alternative to digital dividend demands.

Emergency services could be given a slice of 800 MHz – not 700 MHz digital dividend – spectrum to build their own mobile broadband network under a new option canvassed by Government and industry officials at a meeting yesterday.

The meeting – spearheaded by Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy – resolved to form a steering committee to evaluate the 800 MHz band further.

"Discussions centred around the possible ‘earmarking’ of spectrum from the 800 MHz band for potential use by public safety agencies to build their mobile broadband capability," McClelland's office reported.

Updated 12 May: Australia's Police Federation was unreceptive to using the 800 MHz band.

The Federation had never discussed 800 MHz as an option when it originally sought a 20 MHz chunk of the 700 MHz digital dividend to be set aside for its private mobile broadband network.

That proposal [pdf] raised the ire of the mobile telecommunications sector, which eyed the digital dividend as the future of commercial mobile broadband services.

Communications Alliance chief John Stanton warned the CommsDay Summit in March that caving in to Police demands would be a "policy fumble of gothic proportions" that could cost Australia a third commercial LTE network.

Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association chief Chris Althaus called on the Government to convene "urgent talks" to address the issue.

The industry has argued that running emergency services' communication in the 700 MHz band would put Australia out of step with regional counterparts, who ran in the ITU-designated 806-824 MHz and 851-869 MHz ranges.

"Emergency services organisations are asking for the wrong spectrum," Althaus said in a March statement.

Althaus – who attended the government meeting yesterday – welcomed the attempt to refocus Police attention on the 800 MHz band.

"At the end of the day, the fact the spectrum exists and it's entirely suitable for the needs of emergency services has quite legitimately drawn a focus towards 800 MHz as something that should be investigated in detail," Althaus told iTnews.

"There's going to be groups set up to pursue this investigation [of 800 MHz].

"The industry supports this direction fully and is committed to be involved in this body of work. From an industry point of view, we think the government has got the balance right in moving towards this investigation of 800 MHz."

McClelland said yesterday that a steering committee, "co-chaired by the Attorney-General's Department and the Department for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy with senior representatives from public safety agencies, will undertake further work [on 800 MHz] with a view to reporting to the next meeting of the Standing Council on Police and Emergency Services."

He indicated 800 MHz was but one option still on the table.

"The Government is continuing to talk with public safety agencies about their requirements for a reliable and resilient mobile broadband capability," he said.

"A number of options are being considered to provide this key capability and agencies put forward a range of constructive views."

Further comment was being sought from the Attorney-General's office.

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