Lessons of history inform ACMA thinking today: RadComms Conference

ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman delivered an engaging history lesson in his introduction to the RadComms 09 conference, drawing together the historical threads of communications technology in Australia since the beginning of the 20th century. And if we think worrying about achieving high penetration of digital radio this century is a new phenomenon, Chapman pointed out that, in 1930, after about 20 years on air, radio sets in Australia had only 40% penetration of the population. It was only by the 1950s that penetration of analog radio sets in Australia had reached 90%.

Chapman made several points in his speech, including acknowledgement that Australia has been an innovator in communications technology for over a century, and drawing historical parallels between earlier breakthroughs and today.

Referring to the recent deadly Victorian bushfires, Chapman said the communications regulator intends to take notice of the outcomes of the bushfire inquiry. He foreshadowed that more interoperability between emergency services could be a recommendation, and urged state and territory services to work with ACMA to standardise communications frequencies so that there will be better cross-service communication in future disasters.

He pointed out that Australia has been a world leader in communications policy since early radio communications legislation was passed in 1905. Australia’s first wireless transmission was made in 1895 and the first car radio in the world was installed by Kelly’s Motors of NSW in 1924. In 1967 Australia was one of the first five countries in the world to launch its own satellite.

Today Australia is still leading the world in communications technology, with the CSIRO recently developing the word’s fastest wireless links.

Chapman believes that mobility will be one of the driving trends for communication in this century, and the new National Broadband Network will intensify wireless broadband demand and enhance the economy.

He told the audience packed into a theatre in Sydney’s Australian Maritime Museum that ACMA intends to continue Australia’s tradition of technology leadership and embrace innovation to secure the best outcomes for Australians.

Below: ACMA board member Malcolm Long begins the conference.