Firies open to 800MHz use, police not

The president of the Australian Fire and Emergency Services Authority Council has said that although it would have liked to have been allocated spectrum in the 700MHz band, the important thing was that some appropriate spectrum was allocated. However, the president of the Police Federation of Australia has reportedly said just the opposite.

The president of the Australian Fire and Emergency Services Authority Council has said that although it would have liked to have been allocated spectrum in the 700MHz band, the important thing was that some appropriate spectrum was allocated. However, the president of the Police Federation of Australia has said just the opposite.

On Tuesday night, Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy and Attorney-General Robert McClelland had issued a release saying that they had been in discussions with emergency services and the telecommunications industry to discuss the creation of a national mobile broadband capability for police and emergency services.

Although a "number of options" were being considered in terms of what spectrum could be allocated to emergency services, the release said that the discussions had centred around putting aside some 800MHz spectrum for use.

Emergency services groups including the Australian Fire and Emergency Services Authority Council had previously said that it wanted spectrum in the 700MHz band.

However, according to its president Lee Johnson who spoke to ZDNet Australia today, the important thing was that some spectrum was allocated.

"Ideally people would have liked the 700MHz band," he said. "It's certainly the spectrum that's used in America."

Though Johnson said that the Australian Pacific region seemed to be heading towards 800MHz.

"Bottom line is, the most important thing is that spectrum is allocated," he said.

A steering committee, to be co-chaired by the Attorney-General's Department and the Department for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and to include senior representatives from public safety agencies, will look further into the matter. Johnson said he would be looking to see what came from these deliberations.

He also said he couldn't speak for Police, directing ZDNet Australia to NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione. Scipione's office did not respond to requests for comment.

The Police Federation of Australia president Vince Kelly told ZDNet Australia that he wouldn't be happy with a 800MHz allocation.

He said that his advice had been that the 700MHz was the best spectrum and that it would be available. He also said that arguments that the 800MHz was becoming a regional standard weren't correct.

"The government is putting private profit in front of public safety," he said, pointing out that emergency services were about saving lives.

The Australian Mobile Telephone Association has previously said that because no other Asia Pacific nation had proposed access to the 700MHz area for emergency services then Australian organisations shouldn't be allocated spectrum in the band, which would limit commercial carriers' ability to build 4G networks.

It said that the International Telecommunication Union had designated 806MHz to 824MHz and 851MHz to 869MHz for public protection and disaster relief in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority told ZDNet Australia that the 805MHz to 820MHz block would be cleared as a part of the digital dividend and that it could be paired with 850MHz to 865MHz to give long-term evolution compatible blocks. It would be seeking five to 10MHz of paired spectrum for public protection and disaster relief.

However, Gary Starr, managing director Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions, which provides products for emergency services communication, told ZDNet Australia that Australia would be the first and possibly only country to put Public Protection and Disaster Relief broadband at 800MHz. He added that discussions to date around the use of this band in the region actually relates to the utilisation for narrow band voice and data services.

Since there were no plans to use the band for that purpose, Australia would experience issues with equipment prices, he said.

Starr also pointed out that most of the 824MHz to 869MHz band was already occupied.