The Australian mobile industry will seek a modernised spectrum framework and reduction of regulations in 2015, according to the new chairman of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association.
AMTA appointed Matthew Lobb as its new chairman in November. Lobb, who had served on the AMTA board for two years prior to his appointment as chairman, also works for Vodafone as general manager of industry strategy and public policy.
“The most significant thing that’s going to impact the mobile industry is the review of the Radiocommunications Act,” Lobb told Computerworld Australia.
The government has commenced a review to modernise the current framework, established in 1992 under the Radiocommunications (RadComms) Act, to reflect changes in technology, markets and consumer preferences, as well as increasing demand for spectrum from all sectors. The framework was last reviewed by the Productivity Commission in 2002.
“The current Act is about 15 years old and it’s served its purpose, but it does need to be modernised,” said Lobb, adding that there’s a large amount of agreement within the mobile industry about what changes are needed.
A modernised Act will need to take into account not only changes in the last 15 years, but the current rise of the Internet of Things, said Lobb.
“Greater flexibility means that we can get better use of spectrum and there can be more win-win outcomes, rather than corralling spectrum for specific uses.”
Lobb said he expects the review to wrap up by the middle of 2015. Submissions are due before the end of this year, with discussion to take place early next year, he said.
“AMTA, as it always does, will be working to develop a very comprehensive consensus so we can put forward as an industry a unified view.”
One point that has been contentious in early debate over the review is whether wireless spectrum used by telcos and broadcasters should continue to be treated differently.
Broadcasters have said they want no part in a revamped regulatory framework for spectrum, contrary to calls by telcos and Foxtel for broadcasting spectrum to be included.
“The way spectrum is managed with broadcast compared to mobile and for other uses is different, and there are some opportunities to better align them,” said Lobb.
There is still also the lingering matter of what to do with the 700MHz spectrum that went unsold in the Digital Dividend auction back in April 2013. Earlier this year, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to investigate options and submit its findings.
Lobb said that process is ongoing and further discussion on this issue is likely in the new year.
Another policy issue for 2015 will be continuing to eliminate burdensome regulations through the government’s red tape reduction effort, Lobb said.
Specifically, AMTA plans to target areas of overlap between the Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) code and the Australian Consumer Law, he said. The Communications Alliance floated the telecom industry’s proposed revisions in October.
AMTA will continue to work on increasing awareness of the economic and productivity benefits enabled by mobile services and devices, said Lobb. Also, the association will continue to promote mobile phone recycling through the industry’s Mobile Muster program, and discuss safety issues including distracted driving and mobile phone radiation, he said.
Lobb said he is excited to take on the leadership role at AMTA.
“It’s a great time to take the chairmanship at this point in the mobile industry’s history,” he said. “We’re in the midst of a mobile revolution and the best is yet to come.”
Warwick Bray, managing director of the Telstra retail group, served as the previous chairman of AMTA. However, Lobb said heated market competition between Telstra and Vodafone does not translate to animosity between members in AMTA.
While there are competitors on the board, there are “a lot of interests we have in common, and certainly one of them is expanding the opportunities that mobiles can bring to the Australian economy,” said Lobb.
“We work very closely on the things we agree on.”