Police declares Govt's 800 MHz plan unviable

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Police declares Govt's 800 MHz plan unviable

The Police Federation of Australia has stepped up criticism of a Government proposal to shunt a planned emergency services mobile network into the 800 MHz band, saying it could take "decades" to clear a suitable block.

Chief executive officer Mark Burgess told a Senate committee today that the Federation had "now established conclusively" that 800 MHz was "not a viable option" for the planned network to be built by emergency services agencies.

The Federation had been pushing for a 20 MHz block of the 700 MHz 'digital dividend' to be set aside for the network.

The Government has so far been unreceptive to the idea, setting up a steering committee in May to evaluate 800 MHz as an alternative.

"We say the 800 MHz band wouldn't - and couldn't - suffice," Burgess said.

Burgess said that advice the Federation had received from technical experts "inside and outside of policing" suggested 800 MHz was not a suitable substitute for 700 MHz spectrum.

The advice came from sources including Motorola and the head of police communications, it was later revealed.

Burgess acknowledged the potential difficulties in taking advice from Motorola, given their interest in supplying networking equipment to emergency services.

"When we got advice from someone with commercial interests, we checked that advice to make sure we weren't peddling a line that pursued [that] interest," Burgess said.

In a supplementary submission to the Senate, the Federation outlined advice it said showed 800 MHz spectrum was not fit-for-purpose for emergency services.

It said that 800 MHz was for "narrowband, not broadband" services.

"A number of police and emergency services occupy the 800 [MHz] band for narrowband voice communications and they will continue to need this spectrum for that purpose," the Federation said in a supplementary submission [pdf] to the Senate.

"Narrow and broadband communications cannot be carried by the same spectrum."

Advice to the Federation also suggested there were over 1,000 licensees already in the 800 MHz band, covering up to 30,000 spectrum users.

"Clearing that spectrum to provide 20 MHz for [emergency services] broadband would be a long difficult job, taking decades," the submission stated.

The Federation also argued that advice it had received advice that showed operating in the 800 MHz band would not "harmonise" Australian networks with those operated by emergency services in the Asia Pacific region.

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