Transcript of "Address from RadComms2011 by the Australian Communications and Media Authority Chair Chris Chapman, Chairman, ACMA"
RADCOMS11 Chairmans Speech<br />Welcome to RADCOMS 11.<br />I still vividly recall that our first RADCOMS conference was the week I joined the ACMA in March 2006. I have to admit I was very much on my P plates (Andrew Kerans continues to unkindly suggest they were ‘L’ plates!). Five years on, I wouldn’t claim I am a technical expert but, far more importantly, I have come to appreciate the depth of issues which need to be balanced, which need to be accommodated, in order to hold one’s head high as a successful spectrum agency.<br />These issues range from highly technical engineering assessments, economic efficiency determinations and sophisticated public policy considerations. And all this in a environment of a huge uptick in demand, which demand is being led by the surge in mobile broadband devices and is right across the board….which is what makes a conference like this so important. The participants in this room are in the thick of it. In some way, shape or form, we cover virtually all the key stakeholders…and together we can make tangible progress, now.<br />Expressed alternatively, I don't need to tell you this but we are not debating arcane theory here. The need to ensure we have significant bands of spectrum to power the mobile generation is not only very real, it is vital, urgent.<br />We need to get this right and we need to get this right for the next five to ten years down the track. Five years is of course a long time in a sector which is famously moving at warp speed….and I’ll return to this 5 year horizon shortly.<br />Getting it right is not about claiming to know it all. As an organization, the ACMA has matured. We have asked questions and genuinely listened to what you have to say. Industry, safety, defence, the amateur community, meteorology, the transport industry…the list is long, but we have listened.<br />In a park near the Court Houses in Darwin stand some trees. Since Adam was a boy, those trees have apparently grown up at an angle and it was an angle to the wind which, on Christmas day in 1974, destroyed Darwin. Those trees are still there; the ones that didn’t flex are not.<br />Listening is increasingly in our organizational DNA. The driving force of the transformation process I have driven at the ACMA has been our single organising idea ‘Converge through first principles thinking’. The ACMA adopted a logo and brand identity that followed on from this and captures the convergence of the ‘four worlds’ we regulate (broadcasting, telecommunications, radiocommunications and the internet).<br />As an extension of our brand development activity, we also developed a ‘tag line’ to convey the mission of the ACMA in action – for external purposes this being distilled as “communicating | facilitating | regulating”.<br />The ACMA is more than a ‘regulator’ and I think our work in the planning, allocation and management of spectrum is a perfect illustration of our work as a facilitator. <br />Sure there are rules involved, and it is not divorced from our pure regulatory responsibilities, but Parliament has entrusted us with the fundamental role of making spectrum work as a vital national, economic and increasingly social resource. It gives us a myriad of sometimes unexpected touch points with the lives of the ‘citizen in the street’ (the ‘average punter’ that we all are).<br />The words in our strapline appear in their particular order for a reason. Listening does not mean acquiescence. It is the ACMA’s job to take an economy - wide perspective, but that is a truly wide perspective of the economy, one that looks at the whole community not just those with the ability to pay. But we start by communicating – (a key prerequisite of which is listening), we work to weave a coherent narrative around our activities in this domain, explaining the essence and worth of our work across the rich diversity of spectrum usage. <br />The pervasive nature of spectrum use and of the concrete relationship this gives the ACMA with all manner of both major and minor technologies, trends and (some) threats which are developing means that the Authority Members always seem to be considering some important spectrum-related matter, the users / targets of which are often unaware of the radio nature of the technology, let alone that ACMA connection.<br />Some of these have the potential to be, literally, decisions by the Authority which involve billions of dollars. So we really work very intensively to make sure we get it right, iteratively examining and testing what is put to us to decide, as well as shaping how we inform the market and stakeholders appropriately. <br />The scene for this is set in the ACMA’s public facing Operating Plan 2011, where we flagged our ongoing radiocommunications work - including a review of radiocommunications technical frameworks and updated spectrum management tools to accommodate spectrum-sharing technologies. We noted as a particular priority the intensive planning necessary to prepare the way for the realisation of the digital dividend (which will involve replanning television broadcasting services (‘restacking’), together with the development and implementation of the spectrum auctions and their associated systems).<br />The context for this (and all our spectrum work) work is what we call our Key Results Area number 4 - Public resource management, which has the objective of ensuring that “Allocation and use of public resources is efficient”. <br />What you may not be conscious of is that we have also been articulating a narrative to identify and document case studies where ACMA communications and media regulatory activity is leading world practice – we expect to publish this shortly. A number of case studies in that narrative go to the ACMA’s considerable radio-communications technical and engineering expertise which, together with our evidence base and research capacity, is deployed to support world-class, business-as-usual and over-the-horizon activities. I thought I would share the headlines of a few of these case studies here today:<br />As part of our endeavour to act as a ‘Bridge to the Future’ we have a couple of case studies demonstrating ACMA thought leadership:<br />1. The New paradigm for spectrum utility case study describes the activities conducted by the ACMA in making new arrangements for the coexistence of the new technologies such as dynamic spectrum access, cognitive radio, whitespace and ultra wideband devices in existing spectrum licensed bands. The ACMA expects that these technologies will develop further and become commercially available during the lifetime of reissued spectrum licences.<br />2. To support our approach to Spectrum for national smart infrastructure the ACMA established a smart infrastructure project team. The role of this team is to work with infrastructure sectors to identify the spectrum needs of various smart infrastructure projects and to raise awareness of spectrum issues in sectors with an interest in smart infrastructure. This approach is unique and, to the best of my understanding, has not been undertaken by any other communications regulatory agency to date.<br />As suggested by my discussion of communicate | facilitate | regulate above, we have found case studies of world class work in relation to our Stakeholder engagement activities:<br />1. The Five-year spectrum outlook is a tangible part of the ACMA’s commitment to consultation, cooperation and collaboration with industry, Australian citizens, government and international colleagues on all spectrum matters. The decision to develop it was a result of a perceived need to better engage users of the radiofrequency spectrum in the ACMA’s spectrum work.<br />2. Importantly these very RadComms conference and associated Spectrum Tune-ups, which were both initiated by the ACMA. Both fulfil the ACMA’s intention to explain its work, and engage a broad constituency of industry and government experts on a regular basis about radiocommunications and spectrum management issues.<br />So, to return to that first year of RADCOMS – it was about Wireless access. Many small ISPs felt left out. So the ACMA published a paper, two in fact. The first looked for the answers, you (the industry) gave us some answers, some opinions and some information. We listened to that and our ‘quality of listening’ may have been still in its beta phase – and we published a second paper. The spectrum is out there now – and some are taking it up, others are not.<br />The 2.5 GHz project started that same year. There were very earnest and dedicated people within the ACMA arguing that a globally harmonised roaming band was worth the pain it would take to free up that spectrum. The mobile carriers agreed. They often do, it’s usually our pain not theirs! The broadcasters were initially taken aback and didn’t agree. Now six years later we think we have found the balance, because we listened and revised and we truly do take a wide perspective of the public interest in spectrum management.<br />The same philosophy of being prepared to listen and change helped find a pathway for the 400 MHz replan. It was hard going, we needed to find efficiencies, we needed to make spectrum available to build businesses, provide public services and potentially accommodate services moving from other bands. We did all that and, despite some minor reservations, we and industry are happy with the result. I am particularly pleased with the assistance and understanding we got from state governments via the NCCGR and from industry (particularly from ARCIA).<br />Part of our approach is to stay ahead of issues so we can be deliberating ahead of the time when availability is critical. At this conference we will be doing exactly that as we discuss mobile broadband. We are five years ahead of the other regulators’ estimates, which means we are five years ahead of them delivering the spectrum for a mobile world. I invite industry to work with us and they will find the same flexibility and attentive, soft ear will be there….but we are looking for ideas, not typecast reactions or defensive statements. So please, think about the issues and the best way forward for Australia.<br />Another critical area we have listened to industry is for the planning for those broadcasters soon to be moved as part of the Digital Dividend. The industry had a preferred approach – the so called “block planning” -- and, after close study, I believe we have found a good approach which Chris Hose will be detailing tomorrow.<br />The Digital Dividend is truly an ACMA - wide project involving people from a wide variety of its professional disciplines and experiences. Our people have been charged to think, to innovate, to work openly with industry to find what I believe will be an outstanding solution, a solution that is not the typecast, stereotypical response of a regulator who had always pursued the tried and tested ‘minimalist moves’ solution.<br />So, we are here with an attentive ear, and if the evidence is there, like a tree before the winds of a Cyclone, we will bend to where the evidence blows us. But we remain the public regulator and we will not be swayed by poorly researched or badly put argument, no matter how loudly that argument is put.<br />Over the next 2 days, we have a big agenda -- starting with Professor Weiss -- who I am genuinely looking forward to hearing from. Professor Weiss is a leader in the cognitive space -- a fascinating area which promises great efficiency gains if realised.<br />Cognitive radio is a development driving some of the ‘broken concepts’ in communications and media regulation that I often speak about. <br />The concept of ‘Interference’ deeply informs spectrum licence technical frameworks and apparatus licence RALIs. However, using this as our primary planning parameter is challenged because technology improvements have increased the ability of equipment to achieve acceptable quality of reception by increasing the tolerance to interference and by decreasing the level of interference caused. Cognitive radio automatically avoids damaging interference.<br />An associated challenge is in the realm of ‘Allocative efficiency’, where the impact of spectrum bands, specific to licence-type except in defined circumstances, can limit the ACMA’s ability to achieve allocative efficiency. <br />Conversion between licence types is administratively difficult, limiting the ACMA’s ability to achieve allocative efficiency. The interference management framework could be improved by recognising receiver performance. <br />Those two are just tasters - I’ll be saying more about those and some 50 or so other ‘broken concepts’ over the coming weeks and months in the context of ACMA inputs to the current Convergence Review.<br />Introduce Authority members – Richard Bean, Chris Cheah, Louise Benjamin, Reg Coutts, Hugh Marks and Rod Shogren. All are here, all are participating (including through their chair of sessions) and all are good listeners (well, some of them anyway!). <br />Finally, it would remiss of me not to mention Geoff Luther. As many of your know Geoff recently stepped down after over three decades of professional leadership on behalf of the ACMA (and its predecessors) in the spectrum space. He has been a revered figure in the industry. His contributions are already well recognised but I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank Geoff on behalf of the ACMA and the broader community he has served for his unwavering and insightful contributions.<br />So, welcome to RADCOMS and I hope to be able to chat to all of you as this conference progresses.<br />