Telecommunications Regulatory Update – September 2017
Government to lift allocation limits for future 2GHz auction
ACMA has handed Australian e-marketing company Upside.Digital a A$ 39,600 penalty for breaching the Spam Act. The penalty was imposed after an investigation found that Upside.Digital sent, and caused to be sent, a significant number of marketing emails that did not clearly contain the name and contact details of its clients who authorised the sending of the messages.
Upside.Digital operates as part of an affiliate marketing chain, which sends advertising emails on behalf of its clients and provides these emails to other third-party marketers to then send to their own customer databases. while Upside.Digital had consent to send emails to recipients on its own database, the ACMA said the company could not demonstrate that consent had been obtained for other emails that it caused to be sent through a third-party marketer.
ACMA prepares for mmWave 5G spectrum
ACMA has commenced spectrum planning processes for the millimetre wave (mmWave) band to prepare for 5G services in the 26GHz frequency range. The ACMA is in the early stages of investigating which mmWave bands it plans to allocate for 5G. This is in line with efforts by the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) “Task Group 5/1”, which has identified the 26GHz band (24.25GHz to 27.5GHz) as a promising candidate.
Internationally, the search for new mmWave broadband candidates stratifies the spectrum into frequency above and below the 50GHz mark. A spokesperson for the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has stated that the most interest was focused on the lower 26GHz and 37 to 43GHz ranges, but that the former had been given most priority due to its propagation qualities for in-building and outdoor use.
However, some portions of the relevant bands overlap with high-throughput satellite systems operating domestically and throughout the region, which may provoke satellite operators to resist ACMA's moves. The satellite industry is particularly concerned about handling of portions of the 26GHz mmWave band, upon which many regional Ka and Ku band satellite providers rely (including NBN’s Sky Muster satellites), and is urging ACMA to avoid spectrum in the mmWave range that it currently uses or plans to use when considering pioneer bands for deploying 5G mobile services in Australia.
ACMA has now launched a consultation process inviting industry to respond to a range of questions it has posed about the prospective use of mmWave bands — in particular on whether spectrum in the 26 GHz mmWave band is a candidate for accelerated consideration for 5G broadband purposes. The rest of the consultation paper’s 15 questions canvassed views across a range of topics including: which mmWave bands were most mature, the relative merits of prioritising investigating them over frequencies below 6GHz, and what licence conditions should be adopted for them.
ACMA's Consultation paper is available here.
Victorian Government enters domestic mobile roaming debate
The Victorian Government has urged the ACCC to take steps to increase mobile network infrastructure sharing in non commercially viable areas. It also called for data on mobile coverage to be made more accessible.
In its submission to the ACCC domestic mobile roaming inquiry, the Victorian Government said that while it recognised the value of infrastructure competition, in areas where government subsidies had supported telecommunication capacity, infrastructure use needed to be optimised to benefit all tax payers. The Victorian Government submitted that, in non-commercial areas, government intervention should address the service needs of all end-users that face a common telecommunications infrastructure limitation. Victoria’s submission then went on to suggest that sharing arrangements offered the most efficient and effective use of spectrum and infrastructure.
The Victorian Government was also highly concerned about the current information conditions within which regulatory decisions around mobile services are currently made. It was supportive of the ACCC’s findings regarding increased transparency around information on mobile network quality and rollouts.
The Government releases the Do Not Call Register (Administration and Operation) Determination 2017
ACMA has made the Do Not Call Register (Administration and Operation) Determination 2017 (the Determination) under the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 (the Act) and the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.
Under the Act, the ACMA must keep, or arrange for another person (the contracted service provider) to keep, on behalf of the ACMA, a register of Australian numbers for the purposes of the Act. The register is known as the Do Not Call Register. The Register allows applicants to opt-out of receiving certain unsolicited telemarketing calls or faxes by registering their home or mobile telephone numbers that are primarily used for private or domestic purposes. Emergency service numbers, numbers used exclusively by government bodies, and numbers used to transmit or receive faxes are also eligible to be entered on the Register.
The Determination sets out the requirements for applications for registration, as well as other requirements regarding the registration, correction and removal of numbers on the Register.
A copy of the Determination is available here.
DFAT to set up supply panel for next-generation satellite upgrade
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will establish a panel of suppliers to provide satellite equipment and services as part of an upgrade of its satellite equipment at approximately 61 sites around the world. DFAT currently operates a hybrid network based on the DVB-S2 standard. The network provides communications services, voice, data and video to remote locations worldwide, however according to tender documentation, the network is becoming outdated.
DFAT will need to maintain the fleet of equipment in the current DVB-S2 satellite network as well as expand the existing DVB-S2 network through the establishment of new locations. It also has to provide ad-hoc services for whole of government, which may require the introduction of new equipment to cater for higher capacity or more reliable communication links.
According to the documentation, such equipment includes both electronics (such as modems) and hardware (such as long-life satellite antennas). As well as equipment, DFAT is looking for the successful tenderers to provide value added services, such as access to leading-edge satellite equipment, experienced satellite technical staff to assist with development if required, and other miscellaneous services including supplying test equipment, providing training on new-technology satellite equipment and preparing documentation.
Government media law reforms pass Senate.
The Federal Government's bill to change media ownership and regulation narrowly passed the senate, 31 votes to 27.
The measures that form the reforms include:
- the abolition of broadcast licence fees and replacement with a spectrum charge;
- a reduction in gambling advertising during live sport broadcasts;
- abolition of the "two out of three rule" and "reach rule", which removes earlier ownership and audience-size restrictions;
- retention of diversity protections that the Government says "ensures multiple controllers of television and radio licences as well as minimum numbers of media voices in all markets". These are the two-to-a-market rule for commercial radio, the one-to-a-market rule for commercial television, the requirement for a minimum of 5 independent media voices in metropolitan markets and a minimum of 4 independent media voices in regional markets, and the competition assessments made by the ACCC;
- higher minimum local content requirements for regional television following trigger events, including introducing minimum requirements in new markets across South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory; and
- reforms to anti-siphoning to strengthen local subscription television providers.
The Government will also implement a A$ 60 million 'Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation' package which includes:
- a A$ 50 million Regional and Small Publishers Innovation fund;
- a Regional and Small Publishers cadetship program to support 200 cadetships; and
- 60 regional journalism scholarships.
The Government is also aiming to introduce new legislation by the end of this year to give effect to:
- a public register of foreign-owned media assets;
- an enhancement of the ABC's focus on rural and regional Australia;
- a range of enhanced transparency measures for the public broadcasters;
- include the words ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ in Section 8 of the ABC Act; and
- a community radio package.
Government releases Consultation Draft of the National Infrastructure Data Collection and Dissemination Plan
The Federal Government is developing the National Infrastructure Data Collection and Dissemination Plan (Data Plan) with the stated aim of providing improved and more timely information for infrastructure investment decisions and monitoring of the performance of Australia's infrastructure networks. The Government hopes that the Data Plan will improve and coordinate information and data collection across key transport and infrastructure stakeholders. On 15 September, The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics released a draft version of the Data Plan.
The draft Data Plan has been released in order to assist individuals and organisations to contribute to the development of the final version of the Data Plan. It contains and outlines, among other things, an overview of the purpose, objectives and approach for developing the Data Plan an initial list of ‘Enduring Questions’ to address in the Data Plan.
A copy of the draft Data Plan is available here.
Government announces the development of a National Digital Economy Strategy
On 19 September 2017, the Federal Government announced it is developing a National Digital Economy Strategy (The Strategy). The Strategy will set out how the government, the private sector and the community can, in the words of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science:
- drive productivity within existing industries;
- take advantage of the changes in our economy;
- open up new sources of growth to benefit Australia into the future;
- develop world-leading digital business capability for globally engaged, innovative, high growth businesses of all sizes;
- drive a culture and mindset that supports lifelong learning, a global outlook, and promotes positive responses to change; and
- address the ‘digital divide’ in skills and confidence to help all Australians succeed in a digital economy.
The Government is aiming to launch the strategy in the first half of 2018, following a period of consultation with governments, businesses and the community. To facilitate discussion, the Government has released a Consultation Paper which outlines the Government’s current digital agenda and their scope for the strategy.
A copy of the Consultation Paper is available here.
Government announces plans to establish cyber security research centre
The Federal Government has announced that it will set up an industry-led cyber security co-operative research centre (CRC). The Government will invest A$ 50 million into the CRC and will obtain significant further investment of approximately A$ 89 million from 25 telecommunication, networking, industry and other Government partners.
It was announced that the CRC will focus on:
- Ensuring the security of critical infrastructure by developing new approaches, tools and techniques to predict, prevent, detect, and respond to cyber threats from nation states, criminals, and other individuals;
- Ensuring that the industry, small and medium-sized enterprises, and the community can access online services with confidence. It is hoped that this will also grow Australia’s reputation as a safe and trusted place to do business and access cyber space; and
- Build and develop the next generation of industry, government and research cyber security leaders.
Government releases New Notifiable Data Breaches scheme resources
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has published new draft resources for the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme to assist organisations in preparing for the scheme’s commencement on 22 February 2018.
The draft resources include information on:
- assessing a suspected data breach;
- what to include in an eligible data breach statement;
- exceptions to notification obligations;
- a draft online form to assist organisations in preparing a statement about an eligible data breach to the Australian Information Commissioner; and
- the OAIC’s Guide to privacy regulatory action on data breach incidents.
Copies of the resources are available here.