[LINK] ACMA and Senator Conroy Versus Rail Travellers

Tom Koltai tomk at unwired.com.au
Fri Mar 11 16:44:28 AEDT 2011

In the Army there is a saying, if it moves, salute it, if doesn't, paint

In Australian Government parlance, the saying has altered... If we can
sell it, then do so. If someone already owns it, then legislate recovery
and then sell it.
And contrary to ACMA's announcement last week in relation to the
renewability of spectrum licences that were being used post 2014 expiry

It would seem the Government have already reneged on that arrangement -
which doesn't bode well for the ambitions of Vivid and their desire to
keep their 3.6 Ghz spectrum in the face of the NBN's needs.
If I was the Seven Network Board I would be watching the outcome of this
little bunfight (below) very closely...

The reneging ?

Todays' story in the Australian refers.:  (My comments follow Aus

Quote/ [From:

$500m rail spectrum investment in limbo 

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's most senior departmental
advisors from the communications regulator have told the rail industry's
peak body that they will have to prove they can't use commercial
carriers to run the new system.

Bryan Nye, chief executive of the Australasian Railway Association, who
is fighting to retain the licences on behalf of states, said that the
government's prime concern at the meeting was the loss of revenue from
re-auctioning the licences.

"At the end of the day, they want to put dollars before lives on the
rail lines. They are concerned about their loss of revenue if we
continue on with this spectrum campaign," Mr Nye said.

Mr Nye said the ministerial advisors at the meeting told the ARA the
railways "would find some other way" of rolling out the new safety
system which is being rolled out in an anticipation of future high-speed
train projects.

"I thought public interest and public good would predominate in the
minds of policy makers. It's hard to understand government departments
trying to increase their commercial revenue over the national interest.
It's just hard to understand that," he said.

Senator Conroy refused to comment on the meeting citing departmental
policy surrounding talks with stakeholders.

"The department doesn't comment on the details of meetings with
stakeholders," a spokeswoman for Senator Conroy said.

Mr Nye said that the states would now escalate their campaign to retain
the licences to cross-bench ministers and the Greens which are strong
proponents of high-speed rail.

States have invested more than 10 years of co-operation and $500m in the
system, called GSM-R, which depends on states retaining their 1800MHz
spectrum allocations.

The system which is nearly complete in Victoria and expected to be
operating nationally by 2014 would place state passenger rail signalling
and safety operations on a federated system for the first time.

Without the system "the trains will simply stop", Mr Nye warned.

However, the railways' 1800MHz spectrum licences are due to expire in
two stages, from 2013 and 2015, and interest in the spectrum from mobile
operators' is at an unprecedented high.

Worldwide, the 1800MHz spectrum has been selected for next-generation
mobile services known as Long Term Evolution and Australian carriers
currently have limited allocations of the spectrum.

They're placing heavy pressure on the communications regulator to make
more of the railways' spectrum available to maximise its use for LTE.

The ARA bought the licences in the One.Tel fire sale for a song at $20m.

Mr Nye said the railways would not be able to compete with carriers in
any new commercial auction.

The Department of broadband Communications and the Digital Economy
(DBCDE) declined to reveal whether it had estimated the commercial value
of the railways' 1800MHz spectrum holdings.


If Government takes back assets from Government or Government authorised
independent bodies. what hope is there for private industry.

Colleague and Radio Specialist Adam C. suggested that :

"There's no reason ARA cannot use GSM-R using highly directional
antennas and low power levels and still operate parallel with LTE.
Especially if ACMA hired more radio inspectors and actually did their
job when it came to spectrum planning :P"
(In other words, exactly the same as occurred with the overlap between
Unwired and Vodaphone at 1.9 GHz).

Of course Adam was referring to the fact that apart from Telstra, Optus
and the NBN the next biggest owner of easements and fibre would be the
ARA. (The fibre is for their signals networks).

So the question remains, is this claw back of legally purchased (from a
liquidator) assets legal under Australian law or do we have a situation
where we need to revisit the "Australian Constitution" with unanswered
(Then again as far as Liquidators actions, I'm with the Government on
this one. Liquidators do not always act in the best interests of the

So the only question remains is, will the desperate need to satisfy
lobbyist driven commercial interest awareness outweigh common sense?

I catch trains occasionally, so I hope not. I'm sure the other 1.6
million Australians that catch trains also hope not...

If the Government keeps reneging on it's promises, someone will have to
set-up a public scoreboard.

At half time the score is:

Currently elected Government Officials         2 
Jon Q. Public                                            -2
Opposition Shadow Ministry                        On the Fence awaiting
the public mood...


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