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Comms Annual Report 2014–15

Promote efficient communications markets: significant activities and achievements

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Programme 1.1: Digital Technologies and Communications Services

Promote an innovative and competitive communications sector, through policy development, advice and programme delivery, so all Australians can realise the full potential of digital technologies and communications services.

Case study

Switchover to digital marks historic milestone

Roy the Remote holding a a sign saying “Retune”

Australia’s digital journey reached a historic milestone in 2014 with the completion of a significant project to release new spectrum for mobile services.

Announced by the Government in June 2010, the ambitious Restack Programme committed our Department to achieve a digital dividend of 126 megahertz (MHz) of 700 MHz band spectrum–including Ultra High Frequency (UHF) television channels 52–69–by 31 December 2014. In the end, the programme successfully wrapped up six weeks ahead of schedule.

Roy the Remote holding a a sign saying “Retune”

Its end marked the switchover to digital television, clearing our digital dividend of 126 MHz, which is the largest contiguous UHF digital dividend anywhere in the world.

The restack process involved relocating digital television services belonging to commercial broadcasters as well as the ABC to their new channels by retuning, replacing or otherwise modifying transmission equipment at 426 sites. This affected 1,476 free-to-air services. It was a complex task as each of the digital television services or channel changes across Australia needed to change in a set causal sequence, while at the same time preserving those channels that did not change, to minimise disruption to viewers.

Extensive planning behind the scenes saw over 22,000 pages of technical specification written, reviewed and agreed between site owners, broadcasters, implementation engineers and installers. Planning and contingency arrangements ensured no significant downtime was experienced onsite and mandatory training of all site workers guaranteed no onsite injuries.

The timetable included a public retune date, which was the date that affected commercial and national digital services would move to their final digital channels. On or after this date, viewers who received television from the identified transmission site retuned their digital television, set-top box or digital recorder in order to continue viewing free-to-air services that had undergone a channel change. Service infrastructure and tools, such as MySwitch, which were developed and successfully used in the digital television switchover, were also used to help people retune.

The final site to be retuned was Gunning in New South Wales, which retuned on 20 November 2014. Derby in Tasmania was the first on 6 April 2013.

The retune communications campaign was critical and by the end of the project it had informed 20.4 million viewers to successfully retune their televisions on or after their allocated retune day. For example, in September 2014, 2.2 million viewers retuned 386 services at 92 sites.

During the course of the programme, we reached out to over 2,800 community groups, 300 local government organisations, 3,700 schools, 3,600 aged care facilities, 2,000 journalists and 2,000 building owners and managers. We also ran television, print and radio advertising in line with the rollout timetable. Viewer information was produced in 28 different languages.

The Restack Programme was a collaborative effort that involved our Department working in consultation with communities across Australia, the Australian Communications and Media Authority and the broadcasting industry.

Overall, the Government committed $143.2 million over five years in the 2012–¬13 Budget and $26.6 million in the 2013–14 Budget to deliver the Restack Programme by 31 December 2014. The deadline ensured spectrum licences could start on 1 January 2015 and support new mobile and broadband services, as well as new applications.

The logistical complexities, involvement of households across Australia, and the benefits that will flow from the spectrum reallocation make the restack a significant achievement for us, the Government and Australia more broadly.

Given the fundamental role spectrum will play in the development of an innovative and productive digital and networked economy, it will remain a core policy area for us for a long time to come.

Australia’s digital journey continues. It is a journey that will keep us at the forefront of communication technology for generations to come.

Goulburn Valley Victorias new antenna prior to installation

Goulburn Valley new antenna prior to installation.

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