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ACMA chief slams Baillieu's claims as deeply offensive

Alison Caldwell reported this story on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 12:34:00

ELEANOR HALL: To news back home now and the chairman of the Australian Communications and Media Authority is rejecting criticism that giving emergency services only half the bandwidth they requested for an emergency communication network puts lives at risk.

The allegation was made by Victoria's Premier Ted Baillieu who said the Federal Government is putting profits before people's lives.

The extended bandwidth would enable helicopters and crews at a fire to beam back live vision to the control centre to allow real time decisions to be made with the latest information.

But ACMA chief Chris Chapman says 10 megahertz is more than enough bandwidth for an emergency communications network and is in line with international standards.

CHRIS CHAPMAN: The PSAs wanted in their claim 20 megahertz but the ACMA, being responsible for the planning and allocation of spectrum after taking into account the various considerations and the various evidence and working through a number of scenarios felt that two by five, 10 megahertz of spectrum, would support their day-to-day operations with the emergency services and we're very comfortable with that decision.

ALISON CALDWELL: Yes I think this is the concern though. You're talking day-to-day but in the case of something like Black Saturday, that's not day-to-day.

CHRIS CHAPMAN: Well the allocations that we've announced are a tiered series of allocations. It's a multi-layered approach. There's 10 megahertz in the 800, there's 50 megahertz in the 4.9 gigahertz band and you need to remember that we've previously allocated up to 25 megahertz of dedicated spectrum in the 400.

So it is by any international measure probably the most integrated, holistic, tiered spectrum solution that any PSAs in a national jurisdiction have had the benefit of to date. This focus merely on the 10, even though it is more than adequate for day-to-day operations, more than adequate - the feedback I've got overnight from our overseas colleagues is that this has been an inspirational development, it's one that the world is looking at and there's been a very simplistic response that's focused on one aspect, which has been from a policy perspective a disappointing outcome over the last day or so.

ALISON CALDWELL: Yes the Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu was out of the blocks very early this morning saying that really you're putting profit ahead of lives and you're putting lives at risk with just, with denying the emergency services half of what they asked for.

CHRIS CHAPMAN: They're deeply offensive claims, to the point of being reckless. We, as the regulator, have claims put on us for spectrum from all manner of organisations, from all manner of stakeholders. Often, we find that they have sub-optimal knowledge, they're being misinformed by equipment providers, they might be seeking to negotiate elsewhere on matters of price or quantity or what we have offered is agencies the ability to create a deep and layered capability.

They've now got a wonderful opportunity to build efficient core LTE network which is fourth generation spectrum.

It gives them the ability to rapidly expand, to deploy additional capacity and to access additional commercial spectrum as needed in exceptional emergency situations.

From a planning perspective this is a wonderful opportunity and I'm very, very hopeful that the Commonwealth and the states and the various PSA agencies can work together to respond to that invitation.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the chairman of the Australian Communications and Media Authority Chris Chapman, speaking to Alison Caldwell.

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