Senate backs police bid for unsold 700 MHz

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Senate backs police bid for unsold 700 MHz

Calls for all leftovers to be reserved.

A Senate Committee has backed a last-ditch bid by emergency services for a chunk of unsold 700 MHz spectrum in which to host a private 4G network.

The committee called on Communications Minister Anthony Albanese to "allocate 20 MHz of contiguous spectrum in the 700 MHz band" for the proposed public safety network, and to grant emergency services "priority access to an additional 10 MHz" in the same band.

It also backed calls by the Police Federation to fund the allocation from the proceeds of this year's 700 MHz digital dividend auction, which netted the Government $1 billion less than expected.

The Committee's recommendation, if accepted in full, would take all remaining 700 MHz spectrum out of the market.

It is also likely to raise the ire of commercial mobile telcos, which are eyeing the unsold 700 MHz spectrum as future burst capacity for their own LTE networks.

The Committee said it would ask for a block of spectrum in the 800 MHz band, which is currently on the table for emergency services, only if the recommendations are thrown out.

In a blow for the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the Committee said the evidence placed before it raised questions over the adequacy of the current offer to emergency services, which consists of 10 MHz of 800 MHz spectrum and 50 MHz in the 4.9 GHz band.

The ACMA told the committee its allocation decisions were "evidence-based", but the committee backed emergency services in calling for a 20 MHz slice of whatever spectrum they ended up with.

"Available evidence before the committee (which is also currently under the consideration of the ACMA) upholds a position underpinned by evidence that 10 MHz is inadequate and that at 20 MHz is the absolute minimum required," it said.

The committee said the focus on an 800 MHz allocation to date meant giving emergency services a 700 MHz slice instead had not been "fully explored".

"The 2013 auction of spectrum in the 700 MHz band has provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the [public safety agencies] which cannot be overlooked," the committee said.

"As there remains 30 MHz of unallocated spectrum, the committee can foresee no reason as to why the ACMA cannot allocate 20 MHz of remaining spectrum in the 700 MHz band with immediate effect."

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