Friday, 05 April 2019 12:17

Optus call for regulatory reform to facilitate 5G deployment Featured

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Optus has called for national reform to facilitate 5G deployment and urged industry and government collaboration to reassess what it calls “outdated” deployment rules.

In a paper released on Friday, Optus, Australia's second largest telco, has outlined the need for regulatory reform of mobile deployment rules in order to facilitate the “Network of the Future”, and setting out in the paper, three key reforms it believes are required to realise the economic benefits of 5G:  

  1. Consistent application of State and Local Government planning law exemptions to small cells; 
  2. Introduction of uniform national cost-based pricing for land access; and  
  3. To enable carriers to make necessary minor and safe modifications to existing poles to accommodate additional small cell facilities.

Optus vice-president of Regulatory and Public Affairs, Andrew Sheridan, stressed what he said was the importance of reviewing the rules that govern site deployment to ensure Australia does not lag in its 5G delivery.

“5G will be a gamechanger for consumers, businesses and governments alike. It will provide transformative smart infrastructure that will drive the digitalisation of the economy and deliver substantial economic and societal benefits. However, in order to realise these benefits and usher in the age of hyper-connectivity, a new network of small cell base stations – no bigger than a backpack - must be deployed around Australia,” Sheridan said.

Optus says that current deployment rules are governed by multiple tiers of governments, each with differing compensation schemes, zoning and installation exemptions.

“The rules, which were originally designed two decades ago for large infrastructure deployment, do not appear to address some of the practical implementation issues involved in the mass deployment of 5G small cell infrastructure,” the company says.

The paper argues that the advent of 5G necessitates a fundamental redesign of infrastructure deployment rules that standardise processes and rules across jurisdictions and lowers the cost of deployment.  

And, in calling for a collaborative industry and sovernment approach, Optus notes that a revised regulatory framework would also provide reassurance to the community around the safety of 5G – with the World Health Organisation concluding that the extensive body of research and evidence confirms that there is no existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields.  

“Optus is keen to work with the Australian Government and our industry colleagues to adopt nationally consistent rules that facilitate the rapid, safe and cost-effective rollout of 5G across Australia,” Sheridan said.

“Uniform rules would be informed by — and address — community concerns, providing business and consumer confidence in the deployment of this transformative technology.”

Positioning the need for change against other international jurisdictions, Sheridan says Optus highlights the work already afoot by the European Commission and in the US, “which is actively pursuing regulation that promotes and enables the efficient deployment of small cells”.

“The Australian mobile market has been at the forefront of new networks and the adoption of new technologies. Indeed, Optus is currently leading the way for customers with its 5G Home Broadband product,” Sheridan says.

“However, we fear the Australian regulatory environment is not keeping pace with others  in its preparation for the next wave of mobile technologies. Bold reform is required to unlock the potential of 5G and Australia’s future economic prosperity.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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