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Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement
Spectrum for public safety mobile broadband
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Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement
Parry, Sen Stephen
Nash, Sen Fiona
Matheson, Russell, MP
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Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement
(Joint-Monday, 24 June 2013)
CHAIR (Mr McClelland)
- Mr Pahlow
Content WindowParliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement - 24/06/2013 - Spectrum for public safety mobile broadband
BOUWMEESTER, Mr Greg, Southern Area Sales Manager, Motorola Solutions
HILL, Mr David, Area North Manager, Government and Public Safety, Motorola Solutions
THOMPSON, Mr Paul, General Manager, Government and Public Safety, Motorola Solutions
CHAIR: I now welcome Mr Thompson and representatives from Motorola. Do you have anything to say about the capacity in which you come along?
Mr Bouwmeester : I am the Area South manager; that area also encompasses Western Australia, where we ran the public safety mobile broadband demonstration.
CHAIR: Thank you. I am sorry that we are running short of time and there are some parliamentary commitments. We might do it in reverse order, if you do not mind: rather than asking for an opening statement, we may ask our questions and then invite you to do a mop-up if you think we have overlooked anything. Could you describe the trial that you conducted in West Australia for us that produced the documents we have referred to as Nos 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Mr Bouwmeester : Certainly. We call it a demonstration. Because the marketplace is changing so rapidly, one of the things that were fairly clear—and this took place in early 2012—was that agencies were still trying to understand the usability of the technology, what it enabled and how it could be used in an operational sense. So the purpose of the demonstration and trial was to set up a live network to run scenarios with equipment based on input given by the public safety agencies.
What we had was a single-site LTE network. It was running in the 700-meg band from North America, using the North American kit. ACMA gracefully gave us a test licence to do that. We had a staged area that was probably about 1.5 kilometres from the site. The reason we chose that was that it represented probably not the edge of the cell coverage, not right under where you have the maximum bandwidth, but effectively in the middle—a typical type of scenario. We were then able to run through and stage a number of demonstrations and scenarios with mobile vehicles, fixed terminals sitting in a room and hand-held devices stepped through these demonstrations and, in doing so, we were able to look at the available bandwidth and capacity that we had from the networks. In other words, we could transmit video and we could run scenarios and see what happened whether we had five megahertz or 10 megahertz and those sorts of effects.
CHAIR: Documents 1 and 2 that we have seen show a far less extensive coverage to the 10 megahertz.
Mr Bouwmeester : We ran a number of predictions based on the site in Midland, which were run both at 10 plus 10 megahertz and at five plus five megahertz. It was operated at a particular loading. The assumption on those plots is that you are constantly streaming data at about 700 kilobits per second—the sort of bandwidth you would require when transmitting video. We were able to demonstrate running that video at the various bandwidths. What you find is that when you switch from a 10 megahertz bandwidth—or a 10 plus 10, a 20 megahertz; I need to be careful with my terminology here—you have a bigger pipe. You can send more data. In the last scenario we ran, which was a multi-agency scenario, where we had video going between police, fire and ambulance, when we chose to switch it down to five megahertz, effectively the capacity dropped down and you started having images freezing or not coming through, similar to the sort of effects, I think, outlined in the other submission, with the different images that you actually saw.
CHAIR: How would this translate to a broader network if the five plus five was used as against 10 plus 10 over a broader network?
Mr Bouwmeester : There are two things. It all gets down to the amount of capacity you are trying to run. So if you were trying to run video and the sort of applications that the public safety agencies were describing as 'of value', then you would need that bandwidth. If you have not got that bandwidth, you need more sites. By having a 10 plus 10, you have access to that bandwidth and you can actually achieve these things. If you reduce to five plus five, either you will not get the bandwidth through or you will have to put more sites in.
CHAIR: Which involves an expense, I gather?
Mr Bouwmeester : Yes. The other thing to recognise as well, which is an interesting discussion that we had with the agencies, is that quite often these incidents occur in a fairly localised area. If it is a localised area, having multiple sites does not necessarily help you if you are only accessing one site. So if you have 15 agencies or appliances accessing the one site, whether they have another site next door or not makes no difference; they are still limited in the capacity they have got.
CHAIR: Thank you. The Motorola submission shows one photograph which is very grainy and one which is quite clear. In particular, in the grainy photo you do not see the weapon that the person is holding. Can you explain the circumstances in which these two different photos were taken?
Mr Bouwmeester : The best way to describe it—and I think one of the other witnesses stated it—is that it depends on bandwidth and data throughput; that is correct. The best way to explain the five versus 10 is in relation to the size of a pipe that you can put stuff down. If you have a pipe of a particular size and you have full access to that, yes, you can put high-quality video or image through. The reality, in the real world, is that you do not have one single user on a pipe; you have multiple users. The demonstration there was to say: if I had a pipe of a defined size—let us say it was a five-megahertz pipe—and I had lots of data going through it and I wanted to try and transmit that image, in five megahertz, because I am restricted by that pipe, I can only get that sort of resolution. If I had a bigger pipe, I could send a higher resolution image.
CHAIR: In that context, one of the goals of this spectrum is to have a common communication platform between emergency responders—police, fire, rescue, ambulance and what have you. So in a certain situation they may all be trying to access the pipe. Is that what you are saying?
Mr Bouwmeester : Yes. The other purpose of the demonstration, which I think someone else mentioned as well, was to highlight that you can overload the pipe, irrespective of its size, depending on the incident and therefore you need controls in place to be able to manage that. It may be overflow. It may be, literally, kicking users off. The underlying premise, though, is that if the pipe is small to start with you will exceed its capacity significantly faster if you have a larger pipe. While I note the comment that for the US the extra spectrum was lying around and therefore public safety got it, it was actually a significant argument from the public safety agencies lobbying the US government to get that extra five megahertz to get the 10 plus 10, on the basis of the applications that they became aware of that they could actually use.
Senator PARRY: I would just like one technical clarification. You talk about sites. From our perspective, by 'sites' you mean where towers are located?
Mr Bouwmeester : Yes.
Mr Thompson : There is perhaps one other comment to the cell sites. It is not just the economic argument of the cost of additional sites. There is also an environmental consideration—that the community will resist densely populated towers—and the Telecommunications Act already acts on that.
CHAIR: Only Mr Matheson and I will know about the local press. These senators are not familiar with that.
Senator PARRY: I need to ask you this. Do you have a commercial interest in selling equipment for a certain band range or not?
Mr Bouwmeester : Can I get to that on two fronts. From our perspective, whether it is in the 700 or 800 megahertz will make no difference from a commercial perspective. What is actually a 'commercial interest' for us is five versus 10 megahertz. Quite frankly, if it is only a five megahertz allocation we end up having to sell more equipment. It would be more beneficial for us if it were five megahertz, but we genuinely think that is the absolute wrong outcome as far as public safety is concerned.
Senator PARRY: You are saying that promoting this is a commercial disadvantage to you?
Mr Hill : Ironically, yes.
Mr Thompson : There is one other consideration for us. As a technology company and manufacturer, as we look at the two bandwidths there is some degree of irrelevance to us whether we make chipsets for 700 or 800. One of the things we look at is the timing and availability of these data and applications services to the emergency services. The bottom line is that, when we look at 700, that is an availability of these networks and these services to the emergency services probably from 2014 and on. When we look at the 800, realistically that is probably from 2017 and on. That is some way out.
Senator PARRY: There is a big difference there. What is the cost for a chip—let us call it that—in each of these units? You might be able to give me a better technical definition. Is it the same cost to manufacture them, produce them, for the 700 range and the 800 range? Are they just configured differently or are they completely different pieces of equipment?
Mr Hill : It comes down to the volume of the market.
Senator PARRY: Let us look at the first part of the question first. Are they identical pieces of equipment just configured differently or are they totally different from each other?
Mr Hill : Pretty much, yes. The chipsets have to be developed for a specific band set, or set of bands, depending on the particular region. Here, in Australia, chipsets are developed harmonised for all of the spectrum that is currently being used by the commercial operators. Similarly, there is a much larger potential market in the 700 megahertz band in the Asia-Pacific. I should clarify that point, too: we are not advocating using the North American band plan here, in Australia. We are advocating using the harmonised. When we are talking about the 700 megahertz spectrum we are talking about the harmonised Asia-Pacific spectrum, which has already been agreed by all the countries in the region.
Senator PARRY: But this is not emergency service specific. This is for every application.
Mr Hill : Correct.
Senator PARRY: Can we confine our comments to the emergency services bandwidth.
Mr Hill : Unfortunately they relate to each other. The chipsets that Motorola and other manufacturers will use will have to come from commercially available chipsets, so there will be much larger volumes available in the commercial bands worldwide. That means it is possible to make a much richer ecosystem of products and solutions customised for public safety operations. So it actually comes down to the chipsets that we will use and put into the devices themselves. If we have to start customising chipsets, which would be the case if we have to go into the lower part of the 800 megahertz band then, because there is a relatively small market, it means obviously that the cost per product is going to be that much higher to actually get to market.
Senator PARRY: What is the cost of a chip, within a broad range, if you could give me that? Are we talking thousands or hundreds?
Mr Hill : Hundreds of thousands perhaps for the development of a particular chipset initially and then it is amortised over very large quantities, but you are probably talking in terms of tens of dollars for the actual chipset itself, once you get it down into volumes.
Senator PARRY: The retail event is sub $100 per unit?
Mr Hill : Correct.
Senator NASH: Going back to the harmonisation of the public safety band, the ITU resolution, do you have a view on why that was taken initially? Are you aware of why that initial resolution came about? What were the qualities and traits of 800 for it to be seen as the one that should be harmonised for public safety purposes in our region?
Mr Hill : Yes, I can comment on that, but you have to excuse me because I am not an expert on the actual spectrum—our experts are overseas at the moment—but we do attend the APT and ITU meetings and contribute to those. The ITU resolution 646 was drafted many years ago. It was originally drafted to harmonise spectrum for narrowband operations. By narrowband operation I mean voice operations for two-way radio types of operations. In our region at the moment there is no agreement and that is part of the work that ACMA is doing with the APT and the ITU and to which we are also helping to contribute. But there is currently no agreement in the region as to what part of spectrum is to be used for public safety for broadband. So resolution 646 only applies to narrowband operations in that 800 megahertz band.
Senator NASH: Now I am really confused! So, in your view, why would ACMA have had such a strong determination to follow the resolution 646 that they brought up earlier as one of the main reason why they were heading towards 800?
Mr Hill : I guess you would have to ask ACMA that question.
Senator NASH: Shame we didn't have you here before. We will follow that up. I think you refer in your submission to terrorist incidents and the closure of commercial carrier networks that can result from that. Can you expand on that? We are getting a sense that, regardless of the band, there is going to have to be potentially some collaboration with commercial networks. How do you have an environment that makes that least problematic as something to be dealt with in the future as a problem arising?
Mr Thompson : It may not simply be terrorist incidents, although Boston, London, Madrid all had those characteristics that within minutes—I think it was within six minutes—the public networks were switched off. But we have seen civil catastrophes that have happened in the US which have taken out carrier networks or commercial networks, to use a common term. One of those things might be, first of all, the protection of the public in case the networks are being used to detonate devices. The second one is the how commercial networks are architected, use different technology and are supported in a completely different manner to public safety networks, and that is the manner in which they are designed and the purpose for which they are designed. The public safety networks are designed for a worst day; the commercial networks are designed to maximise a return. There are fundamental differences and the cost to harden those networks are definitely material. So to be able to have highly available power, highly available services—all of those thing are implicit in the characterisation between the two different types of network. I have got a horrible feeling that I did not answer your question.
Senator NASH: I will tell you when I go back and read the answer! No, I think you did, thank you. On the issue of deployment of a new network—700 or 800 or whatever—particularly from a regional aspect, there would have to be some sort of arrangement with commercial networks, simply because of the economies of scale. I can understand there would be the economies of scale to build in metropolitan areas. But, in your view, in the regions would there still be a necessity to work in partnership somehow with commercial networks?
Mr Thompson : You are absolutely correct. Our assumption is precisely as you have articulated it, but the economics and also the density of incidents that the emergency services need to deal with are largely going to be metro based. In those metropolitan based networks, which are purpose built, they have those attributes that I have mentioned on things like very rapid call set-up time if you are trying to communicate with a police sniper, and the ability to carry HD video, if you need it forensically, to see that a gun has been discarded—you would need be able to see the gun leaving the assailant's hand. All of that is about metro, but the anticipation is that the economics will never spread. As one of the earlier presenters mentioned, it will never be able to cover rural. Therefore, it is expected that there will be interworking between purpose-built public safety networks and public carrier networks.
Senator NASH: To deal with things like flood and bushfire and that type of thing, which are entirely different to a situation in response in a city area, where you might have somebody needing that higher resolution to determine whether or not a gun is there. Those are very different circumstances.
Mr MATHESON: In your report you recommend that 20 megahertz—10 plus 10—of spectrum for the LTE be allocated as an absolute minimum to satisfy the current and future needs of law enforcement. As an absolute minimum, do you think we should expand that to, say, 30 megahertz? You are saying that is the absolute minimum that is required. How do you come to that assumption?
Mr Hill : I think the answer to that is that, if you look at some of the reports that are coming in from around the world, the reason we are saying 10 plus 10 is the absolute minimum is that that is what those studies are actually showing. That said, you are right: it depends on the incident. Even with 10 plus 10, during a major incident, it will be necessary to start invoking some of the public safety features, such as prioritisation of certain individuals and so on, to ensure that the information that is most important is getting through and getting distributed where it needs to go. Certainly more spectrum would be better but, as I say, 10 plus 10 seems to be about the level which most reports at this stage are indicating would be adequate.
Mr MATHESON: Okay.
CHAIR: Thank you very much. Is there anything that you would like to add that we have not covered, perhaps?
Mr Bouwmeester : One thing I would just like to flag as an observation is the demonstration that we ran in Perth, bearing in mind it ran from probably the second quarter of 2012 through to the end of 2012. What we found from a lot of the feedback with the agencies is that once they had the opportunity to see what the technology was capable of, to have a look at the applications, their understanding—their appreciation of how it could actually operate in real circumstances and the usefulness and the needs that they had in the future—tended to evolve and change. Just like everything changes over time in this exploding IT environment, their understanding also significantly changed.
CHAIR: Thank you very much for coming along today.