Digital Dividend critical to Australian mobile industry: AMTA chair

The April 2013 auction is “the most important development in spectrum planning and allocation in many years,” says Warwick Bray.
AMTA recently named Telstra's Warwick Bray as the wireless association's new chair.

AMTA recently named Telstra's Warwick Bray as the wireless association's new chair.

Securing Digital Dividend spectrum for the wireless industry is a key priority for the new chair of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association. The mobile phone industry is counting on the 700MHz and 2.5GHz airwaves to meet “surging consumer demand” for data and mobile broadband, AMTA chair, Warwick Bray, told Computerworld Australia.

The Digital Dividend spectrum is to be auctioned April 2013 and will become available when broadcasters turn off analog service at the end of 2014. AMTA appointed Bray, also Telstra executive director mobile, to head the wireless group earlier this month.

Industry must invest in the latest technology, network equipment and wireless spectrum to manage high customer demand, Bray said. “Against this background the Digital Dividend spectrum is the most important development in spectrum planning and allocation in many years.”

Australia has nearly 29.3 million mobile subscriptions spread across a population of more than 22.7 million – a market penetration of 129 per cent, said Bray, citing June 2011 numbers released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). From 2010 to 2011, mobile broadband services increased 39 per cent to 4.79 million services, he said.

“The dominant factors remain the rise of smartphones and tablets coupled with strong growth in mobile data demand particularly via mobile broadband usage,” Bray said. “In short, the industry faces the challenge of meeting unprecedented consumer demand for advanced mobile services, such as mobile broadband which is driving huge growth in mobile data traffic.”

“The industry has worked closely with the Government and the ACMA since mid-2010 to secure additional mobile spectrum,” Bray said. That includes the 126MHz in the 700MHz band and 140 MHz in the 2.5GHz band that are part of the Dividend, he said.

AMTA and members “are actively engaged” with the government and ACMA “on the marketing of the Digital Dividend spectrum in the lead up to the auction in April 2013,” he said. “The date for complete clearance of broadcasting services from Digital Dividend spectrum is very important to provide industry with certainty and confidence to progress auction planning and advance investment strategies that are vital given the lead time needed to prepare to use this critical infrastructure.”

Beyond the Dividend spectrum, the AMTA will keep working with the ACMA to identify new allocations of spectrum suitable for mobile, Bray said. The mobile industry can make better use of existing spectrum, Bray said. “Scarcity of spectrum means that mobile network operators must also focus on being spectrally efficient in addition to buying new spectrum and augmenting existing networks. This reality means that spectrum efficiency is a core consideration built into decisions and investments made in deployment of new technologies and network solutions.”

Bray sees his “role as chair of AMTA as continuing its work as mobile telecommunications moves more and more to centre-stage of governments’ policy considerations,” Bray said. He said “the test to maintaining AMTA’s relevance is a challenge for all members to continue to provide their input and leadership in contributing to unity and consensus among members on issues that affect the entire mobile sector.”

“AMTA members operate in an increasingly convergent marketplace,” Bray said. “In this evolving environment things will be done differently and it’s incumbent on us all – industry members, associations, governments and regulators – to work to ensure that policy and regulation in converging media and telecommunications markets promotes and encourages innovation, fair and open competition, avoids regulatory burdens that could stifle innovation and minimises industry compliance costs.”

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