Australian government announces 5G working group members

Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, and Huawei have all been included in the government's 5G working group, which will meet twice yearly with five government departments.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian government has this week unveiled the terms of reference and initial membership of its 5G working group, with the group to meet twice annually and be reviewed by June 2019.

Across industry, mobile carriers Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone Australia have been included, along with the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) -- which was responsible for setting up Australia's industry 5G Group last year.

The equipment vendors in the group are Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung; while the Communications Alliance and Internet of Things Alliance Australia have also been included.

In terms of government departments, the Department of Communications and the Arts will be taking part due to its interest in infrastructure including spectrum; the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for smart cities and digital transformation discussions; the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development for autonomous vehicles activities; the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science for the digital economy strategy; and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for "precision agriculture".

The deputy secretary of Infrastructure and Consumer Group under the Communications Department will chair the group.

"Subject matter experts may be invited to participate in the working group on an issue-by-issue basis," the government added.

"Subject matter experts include academics and peak consumer or industry bodies from other sectors (such as the National Farmers Federation and the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition)."

The terms of reference document [PDF] identifies the group's four roles as being to "identify enablers and barriers to the deployment and effective use of 5G in Australia, including at the sector and industry level; examine how the Commonwealth regulatory settings in sectors, including but not limited to communications, can be optimised for 5G networks and technologies; provide a platform for collaboration across government and industry on 5G matters; [and] engage, with the input of subject matter experts, in ongoing strategic dialogue about 5G matters."

The government had in October outlined its 5G policy, including the establishment of a working group to collaborate with industry.

The 5G: Enabling the future economy paper [PDF] listed its immediate actions on 5G as making spectrum available in a timely manner; actively taking part in the international standardisation process; "streamlining arrangements" to enable telcos to deploy infrastructure in a more time- and cost-efficient manner; and reviewing telco regulations to ensure they are fit for purpose for 5G.

"Efficient rollout of 5G and uptake of the services it supports has the potential to produce far-reaching economic and social benefits and support growth of Australia's digital economy," the paper says.

"The communications sector will lead the rollout of 5G networks in Australia. However, the government can create the policy and regulatory environment to support a more efficient rollout, given its potential benefits to the economy."

A new spectrum management framework will be in place by 2019, the paper says, and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will bring the 3.6GHz spectrum band -- which it has been investigating for 5G use -- to auction in 2018.

The government will then "ensure strong participation" by Australia in international discussions on spectrum harmonisation, the paper says.

Enabling a faster deployment of infrastructure by telcos will involve the government implementing a tranche of changes to carrier powers and immunities following consultation with industry.

The government is lastly working to "modernise" telco regulatory arrangements, as well as assessing security issues. It said it would continue working through other issues via the 5G working group.

"The government recognises that as 5G continues to develop, other issues relating to the technology will likely emerge which may require future government action. In particular, while there are opportunities for 5G to create economy-wide transformation, this will require a broader examination of sectoral regulatory frameworks," the paper says.

"To that end, the government will work collaboratively with industry to foster an ongoing dialogue on 5G beyond the launch of this paper to identify and remove sectoral barriers to its successful and timely rollout.

"The working group will create a platform for this strategic dialogue with a mandate to seek out opportunities and emerging issues on 5G. This will provide better coverage across government of the evolving policy and regulatory challenges associated with 5G."

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