Police spectrum hive-off could cost LTE network

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Police spectrum hive-off could cost LTE network

Communications Alliance steps up attacks on proposal.

Communications Alliance chief John Stanton has warned that a Federal Cabinet concession to Police Federation demands for 20 MHz of digital dividend spectrum could cost Australia a third commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband network.

Speaking at the CommsDay Summit in Sydney, Stanton said that allowing Police and emergency services organisations to get hold of the spectrum allocation would be a "policy fumble of gothic proportions".

Police had sought the spectrum to build their own standalone network for emergency services communications.

Stanton - a noted critic of the Police plan - said the attempted spectrum "grab ... ought to be of deep concern to the industry", believing it would be "incredibly disruptive" if Police got their way.

"If this 20 MHz is set aside we could end up having two LTE networks in Australia instead of three," he said.

"Given the importance of next-generation wireless services and the role they have in enabling productivity, to cut the available competition by a third for a poor police network would be a travesty."

Stanton said Police's proposed network would "pointlessly" duplicate commercial networks that the force could negotiate to use.

He said that it ignored regional and international standards that targeted emergency services networks in the 900 MHz - not 700 MHz - band.

He alleged there were "gaping holes" in how the Police network would be funded. "I've seen no detail on that," Stanton said.

He said that giving about 16 percent of the digital dividend to emergency services for free would effectively erode the value of the spectrum, which would otherwise be auctioned to commercial bidders.

Stanton urged "well-connected" industry players to step up lobbying efforts in Canberra to prevent Police from getting hold of the spectrum asset.

He has previously not minced his words on the proposal, describing it as "absolute rubbish" and a "clumsy attempt to tug at the tabloid heart-strings in the wake of the terrible and tragic sequence of natural disasters" in an opinion published by the ABC.

Spring clean

Stanton also used his address to call for a "spring clean" of outdated regulatory provisions in telecommunications laws in Australia.

He said the time was right, given the current focus on passing new laws governing the regulatory environment in which NBN Co will operate.

He said there was a "whole raft" of outdated requirements that imposed "serious costs" on the industry while providing little benefit.

They included a requirement "saddling the industry with providing untimed local calls", even though consumers and technology had largely moved on.

Stanton also said the role of the customer service guarantee (CSG) in an NBN environment was an "area for study".

And he called for rules on standard telephone services and information that service providers were mandated to supply consumers (but that consumers weren't interested in receiving anymore) to also be repealed.

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