Expanding digital infrastructure: significant activities and achievements
Significant activities and achievements in 2014–15
National Broadband Network
- High-quality, strategic and timely policy advice on:
- investment in, and access to, communications infrastructure
- deployment of communications infrastructure including the implementation of the National Broadband Network.
- Successful policy leadership and advice on monitoring of, and information about, expanding digital infrastructure including the National Broadband Network rollout and improved mobile coverage in regional Australia.
During 2014–15, we provided advice on policy, regulatory and rollout issues associated with the National Broadband Network to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary.
We took part in the commercial negotiations to amend the Definitive Agreements between NBN Co and Telstra, the Commonwealth Agreements between Telstra and the Commonwealth, as well as commercial agreements between NBN Co and Optus. These amendments were needed to accommodate the multi-technology mix, including allowing NBN Co to progressively acquire parts of Telstra’s copper and hybrid-fibre coaxial ( HFC Hybrid-fibre coaxial ) cable networks, as well as Optus’ HFC network. We advised the Government on the amendments, which were signed on 14 December 2014. The amendments to the agreements with Telstra came into effect on 26 June 2015; the amended agreements with Optus will come into effect after all conditions precedent have been satisfied.
We worked closely with NBN Co to help it make substantial progress in transforming the company and carrying out the planning and design work needed to deploy the network using the multi-technology mix model. We worked with it to develop a strategic approach so that different geographic areas can utilise technologies in a way that minimises peak funding, optimises economic returns and enhances the viability of the network.
We also supported the Minister in his role as joint Shareholder Minister of NBN Co by providing advice on governance and oversight of company matters. This included advising him on NBN Co’s corporate planning information, progress reports, transparency measures and notification by NBN Co of significant decisions and issues. In particular, we advised the Minister on risks and issues associated with implementation of the new network.
During 2014–15, the Department provided $4.767 billion in equity funding to NBN Co on behalf of the Government.
National Broadband Network regulatory framework
We provided support to a government appointed panel of experts working to finalise the Independent Cost-Benefit Analysis of Broadband and Review of Regulation (Vertigan Review). The Review assessed the economic and social costs and benefits of faster broadband delivered using different technologies. It also examined and made recommendations on the future structure and regulation of the telecommunications sector. The panel published three reports:
- Statutory Review of Part XIC of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 tabled in both houses of parliament 16 July 2014
- Independent Cost-Benefit Analysis of Broadband released 27 August 2014
- NBN Market and Regulatory Review released 1 October 2014.
Telecommunications regulatory and structural reform
We provided advice to the Government on the recommendations of the Independent Cost-Benefit Analysis of Broadband and Review of Regulation and helped it develop its response, detailed in the Telecommunications Regulatory and Structural Reform policy statement.
Released in December 2014, the statement set out a practical plan for completing the rollout of Australia’s new high-speed broadband network as soon and cost-effectively as possible, while providing a long-term strategy for supporting more effective competition in the telecommunications sector.
Superfast networks carrier licence condition
As part of these reforms we developed a new carrier licence condition for owners of superfast networks targeting residential customers. The new condition, which was made by the Minister in December 2014, requires affected carriers to offer wholesale services on a non-discriminatory basis and to separate their wholesale and retail businesses. It is designed to support fairer and more effective retail competition by ensuring competing service providers can access new residential broadband networks and provide alternatives.
We supported the Minister to develop and release in April 2015 a new policy to provide telecommunications infrastructure in new developments. We publicly consulted on a draft policy and took part in a range of discussions with the Minister and key stakeholders, which included developers, developer associations, NBN Co, Telstra and state and territory government representatives. We are moving ahead with measures to support the policy, including new carrier licence conditions to deliver minimum standards for telecommunications in new developments and a website to map new developments and the carriers serving them. We also continued monitoring the activities and performance of NBN Co and other providers in new developments.
Electromagnetic energy emissions
We continued to work closely with the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency Agencies are Departments of State, Departments of Parliament and ’prescribed agencies’ for the purposes of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997. Where the term is used generally in this document, it is meant to refer to departments, agencies, authorities and non—commercial companies , the Australian Communication and Media Authority and industry to address community concerns about exposure to electromagnetic energy emissions from radiocommunications facilities such as mobile phone base stations, wi-fi and mobile phones. We developed and released a video animation and two fact sheets to better inform the community on the steps the Government is taking to keep Australians safe when it comes to these emissions.
Carrier Holder of a carrier licence powers and immunities
We developed amendments to carrier powers and immunities so NBN Co and other carriers can rollout fibre-to-the-basement technology and trial HFC Hybrid-fibre coaxial to provide faster broadband in designated pilot areas for 12 months. In June 2015, we started consulting on further amendments to telecommunications carriers’ powers and immunities to support the rollout of high-speed broadband, including by NBN Co.
Ensuring powers and immunities cover all fast broadband technologies can significantly speed up rollouts and reduce the cost to carriers and the community. We also published a fact sheet to help building owners make informed choices about carriers wanting to use powers and immunities to install next-generation broadband systems in their multi-unit buildings.
Migration to the National Broadband Network
Along with NBN Co, we continued to work with Telstra and key industry bodies and stakeholders to better manage migration to the National Broadband Network. As part of this work we developed a Migration Assurance Policy Framework to improve the process and make sure consumers understand what they need to do, as well as the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved. As part of this framework the Communications Alliance created a new working group to develop an industry migration guideline. Other outcomes included:
- Telstra and NBN Co developed new disconnection arrangements that provide more clarity to industry about the migration process.
- We helped the Minister develop two new regulatory instruments that set out matters that can be included in the migration plan. These are the Telecommunications (Migration Plan Principles) Determination 2015 and the Telecommunications (Specified Matters Instrument) 2015.
- We continued to manage issues that may affect service continuity in the transition to the National Broadband Network and the structural separation of fixed line services through an established governance framework.
- We liaised with NBN Co to develop and implement effective information sources about the switchover of telecommunications services to the National Broadband Network, namely the Public Information on Migration campaign.
- We continued to monitor how well the high capacity transmission infrastructure delivered under the Regional Backbone Black Spots Programme is working. NBN Co and others use this to supply telecommunication services to both business and consumers.
- We responded to ministerial correspondence and other enquiries relating to migration and disconnection arrangements, new developments, infrastructure installation, telecommunications competition, access to broadband and electromagnetic radiation.
- We supported the Parliamentary Secretary to create the Distance Education and Broadband Working Group. It will identify current and forecast broadband requirements of distance education students, existing gaps in supply, and implications for the delivery of NBN Co’s long-term satellite service.
- Successful leadership and collaboration across government, industry, research institutions and the community to develop policies that deliver more efficient, trusted and secure enabling digital infrastructure.
- Advice on investment in, and access to, communications infrastructure and on infrastructure resilience and security.
Integrated Public Number Database
In 2014–15, we completed a review of the Integrated Public Number Database ( IPND Integrated Public Number Database ) and released a report of its findings.
The report follows a study into the effectiveness and continued need for the IPND, in light of changes to telecommunications technology. Recommendations for the future operation of the database were provided, which can be broadly grouped into the key areas of:
- enhancing data quality and accuracy
- improved access
- greater transparency of governance arrangements.
Section 313 inquiry
We contributed to the inquiry by the House of Representatives’ Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications into the use of subsection 313(3) of the Telecommunications Act 1997 by government agencies to disrupt illegal online services.
In September 2014, we made a submission to the inquiry where we proposed whole-of-government guidelines should be developed to improve transparency and accountability around the use of section 313 to disrupt access to illegal online services. We also appeared before the inquiry.
On 1 June 2015, the Standing Committee tabled its report in which it agreed with our proposal: the Government is expected to respond during 2015–16.
Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms
During 2014–15, we worked with the Attorney-General’s Department to develop the Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms (TSSR), which are designed to better protect Australia’s telecommunications networks by strengthening our ability to manage national security risks to them.
On 26 June 2015, the Minister and the Attorney-General announced the proposed TSSR reforms. The Government has sought public comment on the draft legislation before its expected introduction into Parliament in late 2015.
Mandatory data retention
We worked with the Attorney-General’s Department on the development and passage of the Government’s mandatory data retention legislation, which received Royal Assent on 13 April 2015. The legislation requires telecommunications service providers to retain specific telecommunications data for two years. This will ensure that Australia’s law enforcement and security agencies continue to have lawful access to data, subject to strict controls.
Mobile phone black spots
- The Mobile Black Spot Programme will receive significant co-contributions from industry, state and territory governments, local councils and third parties and facilitate competition in the provision of mobile services in outer metropolitan, regional and remote communities.
From December 2013 to August 2014, we carried out a comprehensive consultation process to canvas stakeholders on the design of the Programme. We received nominations for over 6,000 mobile black spot locations, which were included on a database that was provided to the mobile network operators and other potential applicants to help them prepare their funding bids. On 8 December 2014, the Government released the Programme Guidelines. Applications for funding closed on 16 April 2015.
When the Programme Guidelines were released, the Government announced it expected the Commonwealth’s $100 million investment to leverage an additional $100 million from applicants as well as state and local governments and other third parties. We anticipated the Programme would deliver 250–300 mobile base stations nationally, depending on the level of co‑contributions received.
On 25 June 2015, the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary announced the successful applicants and locations to be funded under the Programme. At this time, the Government also announced a second round of the Programme with a separate funding allocation of $60 million to start in June 2016.
For Round 1, the Commonwealth will partner with Telstra and Vodafone Hutchison Australia to provide 499 new and upgraded mobile base stations. These will provide new handheld coverage to 68,600 square kilometres and new external antenna coverage to over 150,000 square kilometres, and over 5,700 kilometres of major transport routes will receive new handheld or external antenna coverage.
The Programme generated over $185 million in co-contributions from the successful applicants, more than $87 million from five state governments and $1.7 million from local governments, businesses and community organisations. The number of base stations that will be funded significantly exceeded our expectations. The first base stations funded under round 1 of the Programme are expected to begin rolling out in the second half of 2015.
As part of its proposal for the Programme, Telstra will also deploy 200 4G mini base stations in small towns around Australia where suitable infrastructure is available, with these to be mutually agreed between Telstra and the Government. These mini base stations will provide mobile data coverage in a radius of around 200–300 metres and will support voice services as the technology for 4G-based voice becomes available. We expect to agree on the locations for the stations with Telstra during the second half of 2015, with their rollout to start soon after.
A competitive selection process for round 2 is expected to start in 2016, after allowing time for further locations to be nominated by members of the public, and a review of round 1. Locations of mobile base stations to be funded under round 2 are expected to be announced by the end of 2016.
- Successful completion of the restack of national and commercial digital television channels across Australia and advice on further opportunities for making spectrum available for new services.
In 2014–15, our advice to the Government on radio frequency spectrum matters focused on the following issues:
- Delivering the first phase of a review of the spectrum policy and management framework (Spectrum Review), and a review report to the Minister.
- Completing the digital dividend restack and associated release of the digital dividend spectrum.
- Reissuing expiring 15-year spectrum licences to provide continued access for mobile phone and wireless broadband services in Australia.
- Making available more 1,800 MHz Megahertz band spectrum to support improved mobile broadband services in regional Australia.
- Facilitating access to radiofrequency spectrum for NBN fixed wireless services.
During 2014–15, the Department, in conjunction with the Australian Communications and Media Authority ( ACMA Australian Communications and Media Authority ), finished the first phase of the Spectrum Review. This was carried out in close consultation with stakeholders and included the release of two discussion papers for comment (an issues paper in May 2014 and a potential directions paper in November 2014), as well as a stakeholder workshop in January 2015. The Review reported to the Minister in March 2015 and was publicly released on 22 May 2015.
The three key recommendations of the Review were:
- Replace the current legislative framework with outcomes focused legislation that facilitates timely allocations, greater flexibility of use (including through sharing and trading of spectrum), and delivers improved certainty for market participants.
- Improve the integrity and consistency of the framework by incorporating the management of broadcasting spectrum, better integrating public sector agencies through the reporting of their spectrum holdings, and allowing those agencies to lease, sell or share that spectrum for their own benefit.
- Review spectrum-pricing arrangements to make these consistent and transparent in order to support efficient use and to facilitate secondary markets.
Throughout 2014–15, we worked on issues related to the future allocation of spectrum licences for unsold lots from the Digital Dividend Auction The digital dividend auction was held in 2013 and used a single auction format to allocate spectrum licences in the 700 MHz and 2.5 GHz bands which are highly suitable for 4G mobile broadband services that was held in April/May 2013. This work will continue into 2015–16. The restack of broadcasting services out of the digital dividend spectrum was completed in November 2014.
Throughout 2014–15, we worked closely with the ACMA to make more spectrum available and improve mobile broadband services for regional Australia. This work will continue into 2015–16 and culminate in an auction of regional 1,800 MHz Megahertz spectrum in November 2015.
The NBN Fixed Wireless and Satellite Review found NBN Co has a spectrum gap in the urban fringe zone around Canberra and the five mainland state capital cities. In October 2014, the Minister issued the Australian Communications and Media Authority (3.5 GHz Gigahertz frequency band) Direction 2014. This required the ACMA to carry out all steps needed to allow it to issue apparatus licences for the 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) band by 30 April 2015.
Electronic news gathering
In April 2013, the ACMA auctioned spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band for new telecommunications services as part of the Digital Dividend Auction. In Australia, the 2.5 GHz band refers to the spectrum between 2,500 MHz and 2,690 MHz, and was licensed almost exclusively for electronic news gathering (ENG) services by commercial and national broadcasters (that is, live broadcasting of events in the field by these broadcasters).
New spectrum has been made available to broadcasters for these services. In the 2012–13 Budget, a grants programme was announced to help those commercial broadcasters move their ENG operations out of the affected 2.5 GHz spectrum.
Funding is provided through agreements with Seven Network (Operations) Limited, Nine Network Australia Pty Ltd and Network Ten Pty Ltd. Total funding to the commercial broadcasters for ENG equipment will be $39.5 million. A total of $15.4 million was paid to the commercial broadcasters in 2013–14 following an initial payment of $15.0 million to these broadcasters in 2012–13.
In 2014–15, the remaining appropriation of $9.1 million under the programme was fully disbursed. The programme’s activity period ends on 31 January 2016, with the networks vacating the affected spectrum in and around Perth. No further payments are provided for this purpose.
The Restack Programme provided support to broadcasters to relocate television services out of UHF Ultra High Frequency channels 52 to 69 in order to clear the ‘digital dividend’ of 700 MHz spectrum for mobile services.
Under the Programme, 1,476 free-to-air digital television services were relocated. This was nine more than the number specified in the performance indicator of 1,467, due to the fact more services needed to be moved than originally anticipated. The vacated spectrum was ready to be used for new mobile and wireless broadband services from 1 January 2015.
Relocating the services affected equipment at 426 transmission sites across Australia, which was either retuned, modified or replaced to enable the frequency changes. The final site at Gunning NSW was completed on 20 November 2014, six weeks in advance of the 31 December 2014 deadline.
The Restack Programme was supported by the retune communications campaign, which advised 20.4 million viewers how to successfully retune their televisions on or after their allocated retune day.
During the campaign, 94,713 calls were answered by the retune support call centre, over two million visitors went to the retune website and 283,486 viewers used the subscription service to be sent an email or SMS reminder on their retune day.Skip to next content block