Radcomms2012 Address from the Australian Communications and Media Authority Chair, Chris Chapman.
RadComms2012Speech by Chris ChapmanChairman and Chief ExecutiveAustralian Communications and Media AuthorityWednesday 6 June 2012To everyone here this morning, welcome to RadComms2012 and a special welcometo our international guests, Compton Tucker and Vic Sparrow from NASA, PaulSteinberg from Motorola Solutions and George Schone from LS telecom AG.Since its inception in 2007, this conference has become the scene setter in theACMA’s spectrum work program, both current and imminent.I find it interesting that the conference was first dreamed up by engineers, people notoften appreciated for their creative talents! But the intent was for our engineers tocommunicate with their industry peers and it still does that and quite rightly, given themany aspects to spectrum management nowadays, a lot more.I always find the radiocommunications conference to be fascinating and, importantlyfor me anyway, I never fail to learn something. Now, it has been a century since thesinking of the Titanic and I mention it, not for the tragic disaster it was but for theimpetus it provided to our industry.When the RMS Titanic scraped an iceberg on the night of 14 April 1912, its wirelessoperators began sending distress calls on one of the world’s most advanced radios: a5-kilowatt rotary spark transmitter that on a clear night could send signals from themiddle of the Atlantic to New York City or London.The equipment was owned by Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Co. and operated by twoof its employees, Jack Phillips and Harold Bride.What Phillips and Bride didn’t have to aid them were international protocols forwireless communications at sea.Shipboard operators were still an unregulated novelty, and they reported to theircompanies, not to the ship captain. They sent business and personal messages usingassorted spark transmitters over various wavelengths depending on the time of day, orwhere they were.The vast majority of ships had only one radio operator, who was obligated to serveonly a 10-hour shift each day. Efforts to regulate wireless at sea drew challenges fromgovernments and corporations—most notably Marconi’s own company.But after a series of maritime accidents in the early 20th century, the need tostandardise procedures and systems for wireless maritime distress becameincreasingly apparent. The Titanic’s sinking accelerated a process that to this daycontinues to improve communications technology at sea and further spawneddevelopments that infuse every current wireless communications system. acma | 1
This process evolved into the regulation of radio by way of the InternationalTelecommunication Convention in Madrid, 1932—the organisation we know today asthe ITU.So whereas I read only the other day that Clive Palmer is seeking to rebuild it, we’rejust noting the loss of the Titanic as a marker against which extraordinary, indeedinconceivable radiocommunications progress, evolution, adaption and future dreamingcan be calibrated.So this is the sixth RadComms. That is quite a long time for a conference to live, andthis one never fails to be relevant. So I am sure it will live on well beyond this year andhopefully for another 94 annual conferences which, while well beyond when my termas Chairman expires, should coincide with the closing out of discussion about theneed for a super regulator in this space!I remember well RadComms 2007, our first RadComms – and I presented the stillhighly pertinent A day in the life of spectrum. I learned a lot from that speech and ourmedia team have since turned it into a video.The early conferences were dominated by the search for mobile spectrum … andmany of us will never forget Peter Hilly’s ‘Buffo Mobilus’!Actually it seems all the spectrum conferences are dominated by that topic, not justours. That is because the growth in mobile is, as predicted, exponential … and thosepredictions continue. As the trend is your friend, the data gives us no reason to doubtthem.But there isn’t an exponential growth in spectrum availability, nor have I noticed agrowth in people prepared to forego their particular service or application in theinterests of a satisfactory mobile broadband experience for others. So we need toconsider our options and work out how this growth can be accommodated withoutswitching everything else off!The Titanic was 100 years ago. Last year the world saw the untimely loss of SteveJobs.Now love or hate his products, there is no denying he was one of the world’s greatestinnovators, simply put: he enabled connectivity. Jobs left an indisputable legacy.But things didn’t always go Steve’s way, especially in the spectrum world. Have a lookat this short clip ….[Clip #1]The problem is spectrum Steve, there just isn’t enough for all that data.So, you are a journalist at a news-breaking event and you have just been asked toturn off your wi-fi. Unlikely … though I do note one or two good people do.[Clip #2]It is a big room yes, but those of you who have ever attended an ITU event know justhow big the crowd and how slow the wi-fi can become.[Clip #3]Yes, a testament to how quickly we have become totally reliant on connectivity, andfor devices that cannot be tethered to a cable or fibre, but relies on spectrum to enablethat connectivity.2 | acma
There is a message in this for a lot of people in the industry. The message is one ofcongestion; but it’s also one of ‘commons’ spectrum rather than a proprietary spectrumspace. Deeper still, there is the issue of priority to access, which in commonsspectrum, involves game theory and priority access regimes—in other words, systemsthat will need to develop to keep us constantly and efficiently connected. Not currentlyan issue for the ACMA to address.I recently read an article in the New York Times, the thrust of which was about alooming spectrum crunch. The counterpoint from several US experts was howeverthat, with certain efficiencies, perhaps less spectrum would actually be needed. I find itinteresting that that particular ‘expert’ opinion broadly coincides with the viewsexpressed by the ACMA last year in its Towards 2020 paper on mobile broadband.In any event, my short point: the need for more spectrum and better ways to access it.We are on the case and, in a number of facets, well ahead of other countries.More specifically, at the last RadComms conference, we said we were looking for 300MHz more broadband spectrum, and we are on the way to delivering it with a paper onthe 1.5 GHz band released on 17 May.But beyond that, we are looking for efficiencies, better ways to use the spectrum wehave—not retaining outmoded technologies such as GSM when LTE is upon us,exploring pricing incentives and alternative rights of use.We are looking for ways to minimise spectrum wastage, things like guard bands, andways to achieve true global harmonisation; so that handset costs come down andglobal trade is enhanced … in one or two bands anyway!Of course, it is not only about the technical aspects of spectrum which occupies themind of the spectrum team in the ACMA. There are questions around the policysettings, the regulatory tool kit available to us, pricing and of course the public interest.Which brings me to the issue of those quiet achievers, those that use spectrum forthings that may not be front of mind, but are just as important to society as the internetand social media.I said before, spectrum is an enabler for devices that cannot be tethered or wheretethering them is impractical. I say this to give you an insight into how our spectrumteam thinks when they face the challenges around bringing spectrum to its highestvalue use—and, as we often emphasise, value is not just about the price of thatspectrum; it is a far broader consideration of its long term value to Australian society.So, ‘can this service be provided in another way?’There are some services that can, but many that cannot.In the latter case, the questions become: ‘Can this service operate more efficiently, in less spectrum?’ ‘Can different access arrangements be provided?’ ‘What incentives can we provide to incumbent licensees to operate more efficiently, or relocate?’These questions will be asked relentlessly by the ACMA as we continue our search formore mobile broadband spectrum, and they are questions that must be faced calmlyand honestly in Australia’s interests. acma | 3
Now while we are talking of the quiet achievers or the little guy, I am reminded of the‘fingerprints of nature’—bands used by organisations such as the Bureau ofMeteorology to predict the weather.At the recent World Radio Conference, I was both educated and hugely impressed byCompton Tucker’s presentation on Earth Sensing; that is, measuring things on theEarth from space using the ‘fingerprint’ bands. So I am delighted that Compton andVic Sparrow of NASA have been able to join us at RadComms2012 and I am sure, likeme, you will find Compton’s presentation later this morning impressive andengrossing.And, in particular, there were a couple of things that resonated with me:1. Ozone—monitoring satellites were instrumental in mapping and understanding the South Pole ozone hole. They helped unravel the South Pole’s polar vortex chemistry and explain the role of the chloro-flouro-carbon chemistry that depletes stratospheric ozone—which is our protection against the Sun’s harmful UV radiation.2. Daily global sea level measurements, coupled with the understanding of ice sheet dynamics being achieved for the first time, are vitally important to understand why sea level is rising and how fast this is happening.3. Radar altimeters on the Jason-1 satellites provide very accurate global sea level daily while satellite data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (an experimental NASA satellite) have been revolutionary in mapping ice sheet mass loss from Greenland and Antarctica.These are things that will equip us to address the effects of past and current humanactivities. Without Earth-viewing satellites, they would be considerably, if not fatally,constrained.Scientists involved in this fascinating field can measure many things, but to do soaccurately they are reliant on a few narrow bands that give them information on thingslike water vapour content.These bands, the ‘fingerprints of nature’, have not escaped our attention. They mightnot be at the forefront of public debate, but they might well be if ignored and thusinterfered with, such that weather reporting or cyclone - tracking became lessaccurate. Without these fingerprints, we would lose many things related to the healthof our planet that we have become reliant on. That is why the ACMA, notwithstandingpressures of other work, has kept these bands front of mind and is working with theBureau of Meteorology to ensure they remain protected.Later in the conference you will hear from both the Bureau and the ACMA on thesebands, and what we are doing.And on a related note, about ten years ago our spectrum team were looking at the firstset of problems surrounding the imminent release of the 2.5 GHz band. A part of thiswas the relocation of some space-related services from Perth. Another piece of thisjigsaw puzzle was the need to protect existing and future services around a Defencefacility near Geraldton in WA. These two pieces were found to fit and so an embargoon all bands related to space activity was created around a town called Mingenew,close to Geraldton. This embargo allowed Defence to plan and gave relocatedservices somewhere to go.Recently, the Western Australian Space Port was opened.4 | acma
Of course, we have all heard the recent news; Australia will host half of the squarekilometre array. That is a great achievement, one built in a small way on the forwardthinking of the ACMA spectrum team over a decade ago when they agreed toembargo the radio quiet zone in WA.I cite this because it illustrates another side to the ACMA—its nation-building role. Likethe Radio Quiet Zone, a simple regulatory act a decade ago has enabled what willcome to be seen as a nation-building project to come to fruition. Perhaps the WASpace Port is not as big a deal as the SKA but it is one I am nonetheless proud of andproud of the team who enabled it through dedicated forward- thinking and carefulplanning.The other big thing we all associate with Western Australia is mining. Often the needsof miners clash with those of other users, especially in the radio quiet zone.But the mining industry is a massive part of our economy, and a great leap forward forthem will be automated mines. These mines of the future will need spectrum andagain the ACMA spectrum team are thinking ahead and working with the miningindustry to determine their needs and to ensure they will be able to connect themachinery to the control room.One last point I want to make is to bring back into frame the on-going focus onefficiency (as the ACMA has again done in its Towards 2020 paper). The call for moremobile broadband spectrum is a loud and constant one, but perhaps there is acontradiction for those who continue to run 2G legacy networks with limited datacapacity in 4G capable spectrum.But beyond that, we must look at the way we use all of the spectrum (includingspectrum lost to guard bands and the like). The mobile bands below 1 GHz are, to anextent, harmonised (except in Europe and the US). But can the worlds’ planners dobetter?These bands are a mess of guard bands, different duplex spacings and differenttechnologies. Our engineers tell me that if these bands could be replanned into asingle block, then staggering efficiencies of about 40 per cent could be achieved.Now to do this would mean dialogue with a number of regional blocks, so it will not beeasy. But does that mean we should not try to at least put the message out there. No itdoesn’t … so we will. But beyond mobile bands, we are looking for efficiencieselsewhere. Take the 3 GHz radar bands, for example, a lot of spectrum is set aside inAustralia and globally for a system with a very thin population of installed devices. Canefficiencies be found there and more spectrum released for other services? We thinkso, and will be talking to you about it in the fullness of time —we’ve already alluded toit in Chapter 6 of our recently—released FYSO. So you’ll need to put your thinkinghats on.Again, a warm welcome to our international guests. More generally for all of us, let’scarefully listen to what is said and please don’t be afraid to join in and tell us what youthink. This conference was first designed to hear from you, and that remains itsprimary purpose.So, as you can see, I have come a long way from the first conference when I didn’treally know what this spectrum ‘stuff’ was and was fascinated by the whole concept ofplanning something that was effectively nothing. acma | 5
I now have a pretty good idea of what it is, or isn’t, but more importantly why we mustget it right and, as importantly, why we usually get it right. We usually get it rightbecause we, the ACMA and you its stakeholders, have a team of dedicated spectrummanagers who actually understand the importance of what they do, have an ability tothink far into the future and over the last decade have again made Australia a worldleader in spectrum management and utilisation.So, have a great conference.6 | acma