Government predicts 5G-driven economic productivity boost

Releases new research on impact of emerging wireless standard

Government-backed research predicts that the rollout of 5G mobile technology will deliver a boost to multifactor productivity (MFP) across Australia’s economy.

A new working paper (PDF) produced by the Department of Communications and the Arts’ Bureau of Communications Research forecasts that 5G could “add an additional $1,300 to $2,000 in gross domestic product per person” after the first decade of the rollout of the new wireless standard.

Telstra and Optus are expected to launch their first 5G-based services in 2019.

“This estimate of the economic benefit we think is likely to be conservative in that it doesn’t fully take into account the consumer and non-market benefits that are not captured in economic statistic,” communications minister Senator Mitch Fifield today told the CommsDay summit in Melbourne.

The research paper states that these more difficult to quantify benefits include “cost and time savings for households arising from ‘smarter cities’ and the indirect effects from improvements in health services on participation and productivity—both enabled by better mobile telecommunications.”

“The sharing economy (which harnesses household assets for market production) is also likely to increasingly blur the line between productive and household sectors in terms of the drivers of output, innovation and productivity growth,” the paper adds.

Fifield said the government’s efforts to support the rollout of 5G were focused in four key areas: Making 5G spectrum available in a timely manner, engaging in international spectrum harmonisation processes, streamlining planning arrangements for the rollout of new telco infrastructure, and reviewing existing telecommunications regulatory arrangements.

The minister said there had been progress in all four areas, including the move to auction off spectrum in the 5G-friendly 3.6GHz band.

In his address to the CommsDay Summit, Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said that now the government has signed off on the auction of 3.6GHz spectrum, “the focus must now be on ensuring that spectrum becomes available as quickly as possible after the auction concludes”.

The Telstra CEO said that the auction of mmWave (26GHz) spectrum should be held “as early as possible next year.”

The Australian Communications and Media Authority last year consulted on accelerated release of spectrum in the 26GHz band.

As part of its 5G strategy the federal government launched an industry working group to help identify potential regulatory barriers and enablers for the technology. So far the work of that group has focused on the autonomous vehicles, agricultural and health sectors, Fifield said.

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