Australian gov must support mobile with more spectrum: AMTA

The government should release more wireless spectrum to support the mobile industry in Australia, according to a Deloitte report commissioned by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA).

The Mobile Nation - the economic and social impacts of mobile technology report said mobile gains would result in overall economic improvement.

“The most critical issue for the mobile sector is policy and regulation with regard to spectrum allocation and licensing,” according to the report.

Communications minister Stephen Conroy agreed that more spectrum is needed as it would help alleviate network congestion.

“The exponential growth in the mobile sector is putting pressure on existing infrastructure,” Conroy said in his speech this morning on the report.

“To cope with surging demand, there is still a need for additional capacity. And this, in turn, is driving the demand for more spectrum.”

Conroy said the upcoming Digital Dividend auction in April “is an important part of meeting that demand".

“It will be the largest release of premium spectrum for some years,” he said.

"The outcomes of the auction will influence the government’s approach for addressing industry demand for spectrum, now and into the future.”

However, the AMTA-commissioned report indicated that more spectrum may be needed in the future.

“According to industry, it is also important to progress planning to define the quantity and timing of the release of future spectrum resources for mobile broadband post the ‘Digital Dividend’ and the need for a comprehensive policy review about how efficiently spectrum is allocated and managed,” read the report .

AMTA has said before that the upcoming auction of 700MHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum in April is critical to the mobile industry, but won’t completely satisfy the wireless industry’s need for spectrum.

“Demand for spectrum is increasing as significant investments in mobile networks have enabled the full capabilities of the new mobile devices to materialise," according to the report.

“To maximise the benefits of mobility in the digital economy, spectrum policy settings must be reviewed and allow for the staged expansion of spectrum resources to mobile broadband."

Government action is also required to “address existing and emerging problems in the current legal and regulatory framework” surrounding convergence of communications and media, the report said. The government’s recent Convergence Review discussed spectrum allocation along with media ownership laws, content standards, and production and distribution of local content.

Mobile technologies could add $11.8 billion in productivity to the Australian economy by 2025, according to the report. Mobile contributed a $495 million productivity benefit in 2011 and is predicted to add $1.3 billion in 2016.

While the report’s future outlook was positive, Deloitte pointed to a currently “stagnant” mobile market. Total mobile industry revenue was $22 billion in the 2011 financial year (July 2011 to June 2012), a year-over-year drop of 1.5 per cent. Deloitte said revenue would remain flat in the 2012-13 financial year.

“After years of strong growth, weaker conditions in the mobile telecommunications sector have seen forecasts for revenue revised down,” read the report.

“After contraction in 2011–12 and stagnation (in real terms in 2012–13), the industry will experience a modest recovery in 2013–14. The medium term outlook for the industry is unusually uncertain.” However, Deloitte predicted mobile industry revenue to grow to $26 billion by the 2016-17 period.

AMTA President Chris Althaus said public policy must support the mobile industry if the government wants to realise the full potential benefit of mobile to the economy.

“The right framework will ensure Australia is best placed to gain from the opportunities offered by these latest innovations,” AMTA’s Chris Althaus said in a statement.

The report also discussed societal effects of mobile, including the impact of bring your own device (BYOD) on business.

Employees and the BYOD trend are driving mobile technologies in the workplace, the report said.

“The mobile consumer, and mobile communication in day-to-day life, is changing how business operates and making our economy more productive,” said Deloitte's Access Economies director, Ric Simes.

Meanwhile, AMTA’s Althaus said the mobile telecom industry “is changing from what was a relatively simple supply chain from hardware manufacturers to final customers to an emerging ecosystem of mobile technologies that is driving economic change and productivity growth”.

“Mobile telecommunications is an industry that is evolving rapidly, changing how we do things,” Conroy said. “Not everyone understands that it is about more than communications…about more than phones and tablets. It is also about real economic, business and social benefits.”

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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