Why is the Australian government getting involved in 5G?
In the past, when it came to Technology, at least, the role of the government was very clearly defined. Politicians’ goals and objectives were to maximize the welfare of the people in their constituencies, and to Australia as a whole. To all intents and purposes, this amounted topolicies designed to improve the state of the economy.
However, developments in the space have created a situation where the government needs to get involved in ensuring some, critical technology is given the focus in requires, and support the market needs to deliver a commercially viable result in a way which improves the wellbeing of citizens.
One great example, is the development of 5G networks in Australia. 5G, will offer Australians superfast networks that will be with us as soon as 2020.
5G is landmark, once in a generation network upgrade. It is likely to underpin technology mobility and new technologies like the Internet Of Things and impact the country’s GDP materially.
To get ahead of the game and ensure that, as 5G technology is rolled out, both commercial and the public interest are served, the Federal Government created a working group in December 2017 and gave it the following terms of reference.
- Identify and deliver enablers for 5G:
5G requires a number of components to operate effectively. One good example, highlighting the importance of government involvement is the identification and sale of network frequencies which can be used to deliver 5G networks to users. Phone companies don’t own the frequencies they provide their customers, to transmit their voice and data information. Instead, governments around the world sell temporary licenses to access it to phone companies for billions of dollars.
- Recommend appropriate regulatory settings:
Telecommunications is one of the most regulated and most effectively regulated industries in Australia. The working group will attempt to find common ground between business and the public interest and include reasonable consideration of both in the regulatory settings that are established, prior to 5G being rolled out.
- Deal with 5G’s important security ramifications:
This can create numerous security ramifications that have the potential to affect entire countries. For this reason, the government felt the need to get ahead of the situation and play an active role in the rollout and management of the 5G network in the country.There is concern here and in the USA that Chinese manufacturers, notably Huwawei may use their networking equipment to monitor and potentially influence our internet in the event of a conflict.
- Ensure that all the government teams which can help are engaged:
5G will affect multiple companies and industries. The working group is tasked with engaging whatever areas of government are required to fast track approvals and get 5G in market.
The working group is made up of representatives both from government and relevant industries – those that will deploy and, separately use 5G networks in the months ahead.
Government Involvement in the building of 5G networks
To those ends, the working group has already investigated the following:
- First, the government has to vet all 5G service providers in the country:
This is done to ensure that all service providers are compliant with the rules and regulations set by the committee.
- There must be sufficient competition around 5G network builds and pricing:
The government wants the market to decide the outcome, when it comes to 5G prices and services, and will ensure that there are an acceptable numbers of Service Providers. This is done to avoid a situation where service providers collude to control the market. An increased number of service providers will increase the level of competitiveness in the industry. The result of this competitiveness is better services and lower prices for consumers – without requiring a lot of rules and oversight.
- Government led investment:
Finally, the government will make investments to boost levels of infrastructure in the country. Dealing with the security ramifications
Conclusion – the government is to be congratulated on realising the importance of 5G to the country
For once, the Australian government is ahead of the game and helping, rather than hindering business in delivering what they need to deliver great 5G services.
Key industries, likely to benefit first from 5G are the agriculture, health and autonomous vehicle sectors.
The first step, freeing up the frequency allocations, undertaken by the ACMA – the Australian Communications and Media Authority will take place in late November 2018. Those wishing to bid have already submitted their applications before the end of last month.
So far, at least, the steps being taken appear to be effective in bringing 5G to market. Telstra is already trialling some 5G technology. Optus is too. It could be that Australia is first to market with 5G, when appropriate phones are made available. If that happens, it will be a testimony to the effectiveness of the governments proactive approach to 5G and the proactive steps they have taken to support the process.