Radcomms report: Spectrum is one of the great enablers of the 21st century

Opening today’s Radcomms conference, ACMA chairman Chris Chapman told delegates the conference will “stimulate and challenge our intellects.”  

Referring back to the last conference he looked back on the success of the digital dividend spectrum auction, saying:

“When we met in Melbourne in June last year the digital dividend auction was THE number one topic of discussion and speculation in the spectrum world.   Since then we have successfully concluded Australia’s largest spectrum auction with both the 700 MHz and 2.5 GHz bands put to the market… I felt the ACMA executed its role flawlessly and our processes certainly ran seamlessly.” 
While the digital dividend auction may be over, the work in delivering this major reform continues for ACMA: “Firstly, while the ACMA completed its major replanning of the broadcasting bands to achieve restack earlier this year – work has continued in providing channel planning assistance and advice during the implementation phase of this major body of work. The ACMA also continues to work with broadcasters and other spectrum users in establishing new spectrum management arrangements for the important electronic news gathering services that also needed to be relocated. And of course, the ACMA continues its work on the transition of wireless audio devices out of the digital dividend band.”

This year the ACMA also finalised class licensing arrangements in the 4.9 GHz band for public safety agencies.

Chapman continued: “Of course, no conversation on spectrum is complete without reference to the growth in mobile broadband demand and the associated spectrum implications.  Consideration of this issue dates back to ACMA’s inception and is likely to continue for many years to come.   While Australia is an island, we cannot consider this issue in isolation from international developments and activities. To this end, the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference – or WRC15 – will be a key event which will influence how the issue of additional spectrum for mobile broadband will be considered around the world, and derivatively in Australia.”
“Spectrum is one of the great enablers of the 21st century, driving and being driven by technological innovation. Spectrum does not just facilitate communication; it has changed the very concept of communication – how we interact with the world around us.  This transformative capacity is not something that the ACMA takes for granted – we see the sound management of this finite national resource very materially contributing to Australia’s fundamental economic growth and social development…

“Until fairly recently, the volume of information being transmitted was comparatively limited. For example, 50 years ago, use of spectrum in the home would have included using only minimal devices such as a TV or radio. Over the next few decades more and more spectrum-reliant devices have entered our homes: they range from remote controls (TV, stereo, air-conditioning, garage door, you name it), cordless phones, microwave ovens, security systems, wireless speakers, gaming consoles, pet microchips, wireless printers, and wi-fi routers to more personal and mobile devices such as mobile phones and now internet-enabled smartphones, tablets and e-readers… We also interact with spectrum more often when we leave our homes.”
Chapman’s examples included:
When driving…
We unlock our doors remotely. Our cars have collision avoidance systems. We use bluetooth to make calls. GPS helps us get to where we want to go. Swipe cards and sensors operate boom gates. E-tags collect our tolls. LED signs advise us of traffic conditions. Parking spaces are monitored by in-ground sensors. Speed cameras and radar guns monitor our speeds. Automatic number plate recognition automatically identifies vehicles.

When shopping…
We enter shops through motion detection automatic doors. Barcodes are read and bills are paid using contactless payment readers. We scan QR codes to get product information sent to our phones. Goods are security tagged and set off alarms when taken through security gates. We use wireless hotspots and CCTV records our movements.

When travelling…
We use smartcards to pay for our bus and train trips and our phones to check timetables. Microchips in ePassports are scanned and smartgates use face recognition technology to process passengers. Airports utilise body and luggage scanners and we use e-tickets to check onto flights using our phones.
When working…
Wireless devices are increasingly being used in the workplace and distributed to staff making it possible for employees to work away from their main place of employment.

Called ‘digital workers’, an estimated 5.6 million adult Australians fall into this category. Devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets allow employees to access corporate systems, and email.
And here’s the next big development to digest – the expansion of wireless networks has increased the opportunities for new devices and applications to be developed that leverage wireless machine-to-machine technology. Chapman’s examples in today’s presentation include:

  • remote stock management – vending machines
  • patient monitoring – pacemakers, insulin pumps, operating room monitors
  • disaster early warning systems – for earthquakes, bushfires etc
  • predictive maintenance, asset tracking and smart meters.

“Developments in technology have transformed the way we conduct most parts of our lives. Our use of spectrum is no longer intermittent and discreet. Our devices, whether personal like smartphones and pacemakers, private like smart meters and asset trackers or public like disaster warning systems are now always on … those devices are always sniffing away, never really sleeping. So, a key aspect of our role as Australia’s spectrum manager is to continue to relentlessly evaluate and seek improvement to the regulatory frameworks and tools to manage spectrum …. and in all of its manifestations,” said Chapman.