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Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
18/10/2016
Estimates
COMMUNICATIONS AND THE ARTS PORTFOLIO
Australian Communications and Media Authority

Australian Communications and Media Authority

[11:05]

CHAIR: Good morning. Mr Bean, I invite you to make an opening statement if you would care to.

Mr Bean : No, thank you.

CHAIR: I might kick off with a couple of questions myself. As I understand it, the ACMA publishes an annual Communications report, which is a bit of an overview of the industry. Would you be able to run the committee through some of the key themes and to what extent the report informs the authority's regulatory activities.

Mr Bean : Certainly. Yes, that is right, we do. We publish it every year. It fulfils the ACMA statutory reporting obligations under the Telecommunications Act. We are required to report annually on the performance of carriers and carriage service providers in meeting regulatory obligations with specific reference to customer satisfaction, consumer benefits and quality of service. We also publish information about the broadcasting industry, reflecting our broad regulatory remit. It provides a comprehensive overview of the industry in Australia in the communications and media environment. It reports on industry compliance with regulated consumer safeguards and national interest matters. It is important to the ACMA but also to the industry. It is widely referred to by industry analysts and industry participants themselves. It informs our ongoing assessments of the effectiveness of the regulation we administer. It identifies the broader benefits that accrue to consumers from activities in the industries that fall within our remit. It provides information on investments and service developments, for example, in telecommunications in Australia and access to the range of services and the intensity of the use of services and so on. One of its purposes is to build and demonstrate the ACMA's understanding of the industries it regulates. I think it goes without saying that that is an important matter, but it is also a requirement of all Commonwealth regulators under the regulator performance framework.

This year's has not yet been published. It will be published in the near future. But, as an example of the areas that are typically covered, there is survey information about the communications and media market generally; information about citizen and consumer engagement with that market and media services; changing customer preferences; current levels of consumer satisfaction and the like; developments in television, radio and online content and in particular delivery—for example, the growth in over-the-top services and the dramatic growth in the use by citizens of downloading services, video content and so on. We also provide information about the performance and the cost of maintaining national interest services such as the interception capabilities that the carriers are required to maintain, and there is reporting on the use of those. There is reporting on the various consumer safeguards and quality of service measures that exist—the Customer Service Guarantee Standard Network Reliability Framework, the Do Not Call Register and so on.

CHAIR: It sounds like a pretty comprehensive read on issues related to communications and developments.

Mr Bean : Yes, it is. It is a flagship publication, I suppose you might say, and it is looked forward to by the telecommunications and broadcasting industry and by government.

CHAIR: You said that this year's has not come out yet, but it would be shortly. Are we talking imminent or weeks or months?

Mr Bean : Weeks or a small number of months.

CHAIR: So hopefully before the end of the year?

Mr Bean : Yes, certainly.

CHAIR: Is there a date that it has to be out or is it something you choose to do?

Mr Bean : There is an obligation to report annually. I am not aware of a specific date.

CHAIR: You went through some of the things that typically would be in it without actually revealing anything in it. Is there anything that you can make the committee aware of at this point that might be particularly interesting that will be in it?

Mr Bean : As it has not been tabled, I should not go into too much detail. But we do have some specific information about data download volumes, for example—that they have increased by 52 per cent.

CHAIR: Over that 12-month period?

Mr Bean : That is right. The figure is now 2.2 million terabytes of data, if that is helpful. So that is a 100 per cent increase in less than two years.

CHAIR: The 52 per cent is easier to understand than the terabytes of data.

Mr Bean : Than the millions of terabytes—

CHAIR: That does not quite tell me as much. It sounds big.

Mr Bean : A lot. There will also be information about continued industry investment in their networks—in the mobile networks in particular—designed to address this growth in capacity requirement. Investments in 4G continue apace in this country. Australia is well advanced in world terms in the establishment of 4G networks. There is information about the National Broadband Network and the increased planning activity in submarine cables as well. So they are a few examples of this year's—

CHAIR: Very good. Other questions may tease some of that out. I have one other question before I go to other senators, and that is noting that the government has announced that it will move to a competitive process for the allocation of the remaining lots of 700 megahertz spectrum. What role will ACMA play in that process?

Mr Bean : In short, the ACMA will conduct the sale process. As senators will be aware, the government has announced that the lots that were unsold in the 2013 auction will be put to the market. The process for allocating spectrum licences is set out in the legislation. The ACMA will need to make two particular legislative instruments—an allocation instrument and a marketing plan. The allocation instrument will set out how the sale process will work—in this case, how the auction will be conducted. The marketing plan essentially gives information about what the product is that is for sale. We do plan to release drafts of these instruments in the very near future for consultation. We expect to make final allocation instruments this calendar year. I can give you more information about the spectrum that will be auctioned and the process if you like.

CHAIR: You mentioned that these were the lots that were unsold in 2013. They were offered in 2013 for sale?

Mr Bean : Yes, they were.

CHAIR: Without having a full understanding of why they did not sell: do you believe there is appetite to buy them now that did not necessarily exist in 2013?

Mr Bean : Those are the indications. As was mentioned by departmental officers earlier, the government received an unsolicited offer from Vodafone for some of the unsold lots and a consultation was undertaken in relation to that. That consultation process revealed that there was other interest in those lots; hence the decision to move to a competitive, price-based allocation process.

CHAIR: Is there any public consideration of what you anticipate might be raised from the sales?

Mr Bean : There are determinations in place in relation to the reserve prices.

CHAIR: Which obviously would not be public, I would imagine?

Mr Bean : No, it is known that the price achieved in the 2013 auction was $1.36 per megahertz pop, which is the way you measure these things. It was and remains the view that that should be the starting price, at least, in the resale process.

CHAIR: If that was the starting price and given what is available, are you able to say what that would mean in terms of a total amount that you could raise?

Mr Bean : Certainly, it is possible to do the arithmetic on what would be raised if it were sold at that price.

CHAIR: But that is the starting—obviously it could be higher.

Mr Bean : The nature of auctions, obviously, is that we do not know whether it will sell at all or whether it will sell for a higher price than that. I expect that I have a figure in here and I will give that to you during the course of our conversation. I just do not have it on the top of my head.

Senator POLLEY: Mr Bean, I am not sure whether you are aware of the incident that I alluded to when I was speaking to the department in relation to an elderly woman in Devonport in Tasmania who was trying to contact emergency services on 000 having fallen, cut her face with a bottle and broken bones. She was unable to get through on her prepaid mobile phone. I was wondering if you were aware of that or any other instances around the country.

Mr Bean : I am aware of that incident.

Senator POLLEY: Would it be fair to say that there is confusion within the community that, when people are in distress, particularly if they have a prepaid mobile—I do know there are some instances where you cannot get through on a mobile phone on 000—some carriers are actually advising their customers that they should be ringing 112 if they cannot get through on 000?

Mr Bean : I am aware that 000 is well known in the community as the number to call in an emergency situation and that 000 is without exception referred to by all emergency services and all telecommunications providers as the emergency call number. I am surprised to learn that any carrier would advise the use of 112. I would be very interested in hearing more about that and the circumstances of that advice being given, because that is not the advice that is typically given, nor is it the advice that should be given. The number 112 does work, but it is not the number that is promoted. In order to avoid confusion, it is made very clear in all communications from the ACMA, from the telecommunications industry and from the emergency services that 000 is the number to call. We do have some research that indicates that recognition of 000 is extremely high—well above 90 per cent. There is a great deal of ongoing work to make sure that citizens understand that 000 is the number. For example, there is a Triple Zero Awareness Working Group, which has been active since 2008 and is chaired by an assistant commissioner in Fire and Rescue NSW, which continues to develop initiatives to ensure community awareness of 000. They were involved, for example, in the Triple Zero Kids' Challenge, which was obviously a project to educate children about 000. I understand that that was a very successful campaign. That group was also involved in overseeing the development of the Emergency-plus app, which you can download onto your phone and which assists emergency services with your physical location.

Senator POLLEY: But you have not had any other complaints, nationally, from people who have been in a stressful situation who have not been able to get through? You have received no other complaints?

Mr Bean : I am happy to say that those sorts of complaints are exceedingly rare.

Senator POLLEY: This lady, as I said, was on the floor, bleeding and with broken bones, for over half an hour. She tried a number of times to ring on her prepaid phone. Despite what has been suggested from your agency that it must have been an old phone or it was not working, the phone was working. It was an iPhone 6. It was less than a year old. She continued to try in vain. She was there for about half an hour. She was then able to ring her daughter on her mobile. Fortunately, she was able to get someone who lived within half an hour to go to the house and make sure an ambulance was called. The family then went to their carrier, Telstra, and asked them why she was not able in an emergency to get through on 000. They were told that she needed to ring 112. So, quite clearly, there are different people telling different people different things. I do understand, and I am sure you would be aware, that in Queensland some years ago the Queensland Ambulance Service ran a very public campaign to advise their community that, if you cannot reach the 000 number for an emergency, you should be calling 112. There is real confusion about this issue. I was wondering if you could explain to the committee whether or not there needs to be a public campaign to reassure the community that 000 will work in all circumstances with mobile phones, because quite clearly it failed this lady.

Mr Bean : This is a very distressing circumstance and one that we take extremely seriously. I understand that my staff have been in touch with your office. We are very keen to obtain as much information as we possibly can about the circumstances of the particular incident you refer to and we will investigate it thoroughly. We will be interested to know—of course, we now learn that Telstra was carrier, the type of phone that was being used and so on. That sort of information we will gather and we will investigate it thoroughly. These are very serious matters. When they do come to us, they are investigated very carefully. Where there is fault, that is prosecuted with vigour.

I should say that there is no reason that I am aware of—and, of course, we will investigate this particular circumstance—why a prepaid phone would not work. A prepaid customer does not even require credit on their prepaid service to be able to call 000. Even if the account is inactive or disconnected or there is no SIM card in the phone, it will still call 000. This is a requirement of Australian standards and we have no reports of phones for sale in Australia that do not meet those standards. Provided that there is at least one network that has coverage in your area and your phone has power, it should access 000. There are no circumstances in which 112 would work when 000 does not. Both should work on a mobile phone. But I am interested to hear that there was a public campaign advising people to use 112. I would be interested to know how long ago that occurred, because I am certain that all emergency services in Australia are of one mind about the importance of promoting 000. As I say, all mobile phones in Australia are required to be enabled to contact 000 even in the circumstances that I have described. We will investigate this incident thoroughly. If it is revealed that part of the problem is public confusion then, certainly, we participate in groups, including the one that I just mentioned, which bring together people involved in this area to ensure that that sort of confusion, if it exists, does not continue.

Senator POLLEY: Can I then take it that you are reassuring the Australian community, particularly in rural and regional areas, that, whether you have a prepaid mobile or a mobile phone on a plan, you will always be able to contact 000?

Mr Bean : As long as it has power and there is a network that covers the area you are in, yes.

Senator POLLEY: Quite clearly, this phone had power. It had credit as well, because she was able to ring her daughter. I will follow up on this in the next estimates.

Mr Bean : Thank you. If you are able to provide my staff with all of the information you have about the person concerned and all of the circumstances then that will enable us to investigate that incident.

Senator POLLEY: I will certainly take up that offer with the good intent that was discussed today. But I have to say that the family are so concerned that they would have flown here today. Obviously, when somebody is living on their own and the family is sure that they have a mobile phone in case of emergencies like this, we need to be able to ensure that they are going to reach the emergency services they need when they need to. So I will follow up on this and I am happy to talk to your officers.

Senator Fifield: I think it is important to emphasise again that, whether someone has a prepaid phone or not or whether they have credit or not, the expectation is that calling 000, as long as someone is in range, should work. I think, Senator, there may have been the implication in your release that prepaid phones would not work for 000. I think it is important for there not to be confusion on that point.

Senator POLLEY: Minister, that is because I have had other complaints. I agree with you. We need to reassure the community that they can ring 000. But, when a carrier is then advising their customers that there is an alternative, I think that is where the confusion is.

Senator Fifield: In relation to that, obviously it would be very helpful if you were able to give ACMA details as to who was contacted at Telstra and when that contact was made, because I am sure that Telstra would also be keen to follow that through themselves.

Senator POLLEY: I am very keen, as is the family, to ensure that this does not happen to anyone else.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: I have some questions in relation to the Interactive Gambling Act and online gambling. I understand that you may need to take these on notice because I am asking for some specific figures, but I will give it a shot now anyway. Section 16 of the Interactive Gambling Act allows a person to make a complaint to ACMA about prohibited internet gambling content—online casinos and similar websites. In the past year, how many complaints has ACMA received from individuals about prohibited internet gambling content?

Mr Bean : I do have some figures for you, Senator. The answer is 23.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: And how many of those complaints were investigated by ACMA under section 21 of the Interactive Gambling Act?

Mr Bean : We completed 13 preliminary assessments into complaints where content was hosted in Australia. There were eight complaints in relation to content hosted in Australia referred to the Australian Federal Police. There were 13 investigations completed into complaints where content was hosted overseas. There were nine complaints about overseas-hosted content referred to the AFP. Some of those figures refer to the same ones—that is why they do not add up to 23.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: They double up. In section 22 of the act, it states that an investigation is to be conducted as the ACMA thinks fit. What criteria do you use to determine what falls within the category of when you believe a matter is fit for investigation?

Mr Bean : I do not have a list of criteria in front of me, but we assess complaints according to the information available to us and whether we have enough information to investigate. We look at, on the face of it, the nature of the material and whether it looks like it may be problematic or not. Where it appears to be something which will fall within the legislation we administer then we perform a preliminary assessment, as I mentioned in the figures that I provided to you, and then we deal with them accordingly after that.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: I have some questions in relation to some upcoming reforms of the Interactive Gambling Act. I understand that, as a result of a review commonly known as the O'Farrell review, the government is planning some reforms to the Interactive Gambling Act. Has the ACMA had any involvement in the development of these reforms given your experience in handling complaints?

Mr Bean : Yes, we have. We did participate in a meeting of the O'Farrell process, along with others from government agencies, in November last year. We also participate in the interdepartmental committee, which exists within the Commonwealth, looking at these issues.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Have you seen a draft version of the bill that will be before parliament shortly?

Mr Bean : I am not sure exactly where the bill is up to. But, yes, I understand we have seen a draft of it.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Have you provided any specific feedback on the bill?

Mr Bean : The bill has been discussed generally in the forums that I have described.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Were any changes made to the bill as a result of feedback provided by the ACMA?

Mr Bean : I do not have that information.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Could you take that on notice, please?

Mr Bean : Sure.

Senator ABETZ: I have a brief bracket of questions. I wonder whether you might be able to assist in relation to the Melbourne frequency or spectrum of 96.1 MHz—whatever that stands for; megahertz or something.

Mr Bean : Megahertz, yes.

Senator ABETZ: I thought it might. It was previously used by Lion FM. Is anybody able to provide assistance on that? It is one of the community—

Mr Bean : What is the nature of the question?

Senator ABETZ: I have been advised that Lion FM stopped using 96.1 for broadcasting some four years ago. Another community organisation has applied to use it and ACMA in its wisdom has denied it—in fact, it is J-AIR—from using it on I think three or four separate occasions now. They have approached me to seek publicly a reason as to why that has occurred.

Mr Bean : I think this is in relation to a community broadcasting service.

Senator ABETZ: That is right.

Mr Bean : Yes. I do not have the details of that application with me. I am very happy to take that on notice.

Senator ABETZ: All right. If there is nobody here to help, I will go through some questions for you to take on notice. In relation to Lion FM, when did it go off air? Has its spectrum or dial—96.1—been allocated to anybody else and, if so, to whom? If it has not been allocated to another community organisation, why has the J-AIR request been rejected now I think on three or four separate occasions after three or four separate requests have been made? J-AIR has been denied its applications for a temporary community broadcasting licence. It has put in three applications over the past four years. They advised me that they were all in conformity with the act. I would ask: has the rejection ever referred to unavailability of spectrum, because I understand that is the case. But, of course, 96.1 remains lying idle and is available. It has the potential of serving a community within the Melbourne area of at least 50,000 people and the general public at large. It does in fact broadcast over the internet and through another mechanism which allows it to operate 24 hours per day, seven days a week. It provides 42 shows on topics of news, business, community information, lifestyle, sport et cetera. So, as far as community organisations go, it is pretty dynamic and yet it has continually been frustrated in its request for licence. Can you provide a good brief on all of that and we might revisit this topic at the next estimates. Of course, you can avoid all of that by simply allowing J-AIR to use 96.1.

Mr Bean : Yes, Senator.

Senator URQUHART: Senator Bushby asked a number of questions about the annual report. You indicated that it had not been published, but you hope that it would be before the end of the year—I think I understood that correctly.

Mr Bean : That is the Communications report that we publish annually. Yes, that will be—it is expected to be tabled, I think, in December.

Senator URQUHART: Has it been given to the minister yet?

Mr Bean : No, it has not.

Senator URQUHART: Why not?

Mr Bean : It is just going through its normal process. In fact, I think the next step is that it is to land on my desk before it goes to the minister.

Senator URQUHART: So it comes to you and then it goes to the minister. I want to ask some questions around spectrum. Can you provide the committee with an update on what steps the ACMA is taking to prepare for the implementation of the single licensing system which has been articulated by the Spectrum Review?

Mr Bean : The ACMA has been working very closely and very hard with officers of the Department of Communications and the Arts in preparation for the implementation of a number of reforms that flow from the Spectrum Review process that has been referred to today. The single licensing system, of course, is an important element of that. You may be aware that at the moment there are different licences available for different purposes. There are spectrum licences, which, so to speak, provide you with rights to use a spectrum band for whatever purpose you wish—although, of course, there are technical parameters associated with that; apparatus licences, which permit the use of particular pieces of equipment; and then there is the class licensing system, which ensures that the vast number of radio devices that exist, from garage door openers to any number of things you might think of, operate without causing interference but are not actually specifically licensed—you do not have to get a licence to have an automatic garage door. One of the important reforms underway is that we have a single licensing system in which you apply for and obtain a licence and it has within it certain parameters which may be relevant to the sort of use you have in mind so that we do not find ourselves trying to fit things—particularly new services or products that use radio frequency spectrum—into a rigid system of licence types which may over time become less than fit for purpose. So, as the administrators of this system and the experts, you might say, in this area, we are working very closely with officers of the department in developing materials around this system so that everyone might see how it is expected to work. Good progress is being made.

Senator URQUHART: So you have prepared materials. My question was: what steps are you taking to prepare. So you have materials.

Mr Bean : We have.

Senator URQUHART: What are the other steps?

Mr Bean : We have staff devoted to this who are experts in the area and who are working with the department in the preparation of material for publication which will enable interested parties to make a contribution to the development of the new system over time.

Senator URQUHART: The ACMA's recently released Five-year spectrum outlook notes that 'implementation of the government's Spectrum Review reforms will require us to consider significant changes to our licensing, device supply schemes, pricing, compliance and enforcement activities and management of broadcasting services. This will have implications for the ACMA's spectrum management functions and the prioritisation of our work'. Can you explain in more detail what resourcing implications the spectrum reforms will have on your work plan over the next two years?

Mr Bean : We have not finalised our resourcing plan for these particular reforms. Needless to say, it is a large piece of work and we will be devoting the resources to it that are required to prosecute that work. But I cannot give you details of exactly how many people we propose to—

Senator URQUHART: When will that resourcing plan be finalised?

Mr Bean : As it becomes clear—you will understand, I am sure, that this is a long-term piece of work. The implementation of these reforms will take place over a number of years. We will be modifying our plan for precisely which resources we will need during which phases of the process as the changes that will be made as a result of the reforms crystallise. So I suppose it is not possible to say that on a particular date we will have finalised a plan for the implementation of this exercise. But, as part of our normal management processes, we are constantly considering what areas of the business require beefing up and what areas can contribute to that beefing-up of others.

Senator URQUHART: But you must have some idea of where you will get to to at least get this started and get it rolling—what resourcing is required. I guess it will go on from there—I understand that part of it. But when will you initially know the resourcing plans that are required initially?

Mr Bean : We are working on that at the moment.

Senator URQUHART: When will you know that?

Mr Bean : The work we are doing at the moment will be concluded in the coming months. I would expect that over the course of the next four months—say, towards the first quarter of next year—we will have a much better idea of exactly where that will land.

Senator URQUHART: Turning to the 700 megahertz auction, what steps will the ACMA and the ACCC take as part of considering competition issues associated with the auction and allocation?

Mr Bean : Competition issues are a matter for the ACCC.

Senator URQUHART: Yes, I understand that.

Senator Fifield: And I have written to the ACCC seeking their advice on that.

Senator URQUHART: So you have not got that advice back?

Senator Fifield: No, I have not.

Senator URQUHART: Will that be made available when you get it?

Senator Fifield: Their advice will be an input into my decision as to how to structure the auction. I would not anticipate that it would in the ordinary course of events become a public document, but we can take that on notice.

Senator URQUHART: When did you write to the ACCC?

Senator Fifield: A couple of weeks ago, I guess. But we can get the date for you if you like.

Senator URQUHART: And what is your expectation of when you might get a response?

Senator Fifield: Again, we will come back to you. There is a time frame, which is in the near future, but I will hand across to those who can be more specific.

Ms Sullivan : In terms of the minister writing to the ACCC, the minister wrote to the ACCC on 5 October and has requested advice back from the ACCC on 11 November.

Senator URQUHART: I will remember that—11 November. The government recently announced that it has turned down a proposal for Vodafone and will instead put the unsold 700 megahertz to auction. We also know that the ACCC has announced an inquiry into whether or not to declare a domestic mobile roaming service. The sequencing of a potential declaration by the ACCC with the timing of the auction could have consequences for participation in the auction. What thinking has the ACMA done around this issue and what conversations have been had with the department and the ACCC?

Mr Bean : We are aware, of course, of the ACCC's inquiry into this issue. We are in touch with them and they will keep us informed of progress in that matter. It is a matter entirely for them. As we consult during the process leading up to the auction of these 700 megahertz lots, we will hear from potential participants. No doubt, if they have views about the relevance of the ACCC's activities, they will make them known to us and to the ACCC.

Senator URQUHART: But what sort of thinking have you had and conversations have you had with the department? You are obviously aware of the ACCC. What sorts of steps have you taken to have any conversations—or have you not?

Mr Bean : I am not sure quite what the question is, but all interested parties—the department, us, carriers, the ACCC, everyone—are aware of what everyone else is doing and that is about all I can say.

Senator URQUHART: Following on from some of the questions around emergency services that Senator Polley raised, I understand the recent implementation of lanes by Telstra enables emergency service respondents who use a special Telstra SIM card to access an uncongested mobile network—is that correct?

Mr Bean : It is really not a matter for me to describe Telstra's product, but as far as it goes—

Senator URQUHART: You understand that is correct?

Mr Bean : I understand that is the idea.

Senator URQUHART: So, notwithstanding the policy decisions around emergency service spectrum currently before government, does the ACMA have any general views about whether the recent implementation of lanes by Telstra could serve as a potential model for how spectrum can be used more efficiently in the future when there is contested demand between different potential users?

Mr Bean : You will know, I am sure, that the government asked the Productivity Commission to look into the use of spectrum for public protection and disaster relief services. The Productivity Commission has reported on that. The government is considering the Productivity Commission's report. In those circumstances, the ACMA is waiting to hear the government's policy position.

Senator URQUHART: Was there a role for you in providing any information to the Productivity Commission?

Mr Bean : We provided information to them on request.

Senator URQUHART: How do these types of developments interact with the thinking and strategy contained within the Five-year spectrum outlook?

Mr Bean : The ACMA has in the past considered where spectrum might be set aside if that were to be the way that the country decided to go. We have planned the use of spectrum so that, if the government's decision is that spectrum should be set aside for these purposes, we will be able to accommodate that request. We have taken all of these circumstances into account in our forward planning.

Senator URQUHART: Given the recent developments on the 000 tender, I want to talk about that briefly. I understand in 2014 an improved location information solution for mobile calls to 000, referred to as MOLI, was implemented by the three main mobile carriers. Can you explain how this has fared in practice and what observations the ACMA has about its efficiency?

Mr Bean : About MOLI?

Senator URQUHART: Yes.

Mr Bean : That is, just to clarify, a separate matter from the tender that you referred to. We had some involvement in the MOLI process and welcomed its development. I might ask the deputy chair to give more information.

Mr Cameron : MOLI is one of a number of initiatives that are being undertaken by the telecommunications carriers in consultation with emergency services organisations to improve the capacity over time of mobile networks to provide location information to the emergency call operator and through them to emergency call services. MOLI, as you indicated, has been fully implemented in the Australian system. It is certainly improving the amount of information and the nature of information provided. But carriers and emergency services organisations have a long-term agenda of progressively improving that information where possible.

Senator URQUHART: In terms of the ACMA, though, can you explain to me how it has actually worked in practice? Has it been effective? Has it been good?

Mr Cameron : It certainly has been effective in delivering the information that it was intended to. So, in that sense, the feedback we get from both emergency services organisations as well as the carriers is that it has been a successful program. It has been a significant work program for both sets of parties and certainly the feedback we get is generally—in fact, I would say exclusively—positive.

Senator URQUHART: And that feedback—does that come from the three mobile carriers or is it from a broader—

Mr Cameron : The three mobile carriers but also the emergency services organisations. The ACMA has a consultative body that includes representatives from emergency services organisations at federal and state level as well as the carriers. It is within that forum that we received that advice.

Senator URQUHART: Do the process and technical requirements underlying that capability have any applicability to an IP-based mobile network?

Mr Cameron : By 'IP-based mobile network', I think what you are potentially referring to use voice over LTE, which is a voice service over 4G networks. I would need to take that on notice, but I understand that the MOLI technology does not work in those circumstances. That is my understanding. I will confirm that, but, as I indicated in my earlier answer, that is one reason why emergency services organisations and carriers are continually looking for ways to maintain and enhance the information available through the emergency call service.

Senator URQUHART: I had a couple of questions on digital radio. Before I get to them, can I just go back to a comment that I think the minister made when Senator Polley was asking questions. It is just a point of clarification. I think there was a comment made in relation to the use of 000. I think, Mr Bean, you used the words 'network available' and I think, Minister, you used the words 'in range'. I am just wondering if you are both talking about the same thing. I know I can be in range but not have any service. Does 'network available' mean the same thing? Are you speaking the same language is I guess what I am asking.

Mr Bean : I am sure we are.

Senator Fifield: I am just speaking in layman's language—do you have enough bars—

Senator URQUHART: Does it mean the same thing?

Mr Bean : Clearly you have to be able to connect to a network for it to work. However you describe it—

Senator URQUHART: But you do not necessarily have to have service?

Mr Bean : It does not matter which network it is, but there has to be a mechanism by which you can connect.

Mr Cameron : Senator, you might sometimes see that on your phone it says, 'SOS only'. That is the indication that—

Mr Bean : So that will work.

Mr Cameron : your own carrier is unavailable but another network is. So, if you need to make an emergency call, it will be connected by the other network.

Senator URQUHART: I just wanted to clarify that. I thought you were talking the same language, but I just thought I would clear that up. I have a couple questions on digital radio in regional Australia. On 29 February 2016 the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Radio) Act 2016 received royal assent. One feature of this legislation was that it established a digital radio planning committee for regional Australia—that is correct, isn't it?

Mr Cameron : The legislation is part of a broader response by government to a review of digital radio, which also included the planning committee. The planning committee is not a direct function of the legislation, however.

Senator URQUHART: Can you provide an update on how the committee is progressing, the level of industry involvement and the key issues that it is currently considering?

Mr Cameron : The planning committee is chaired by the ACMA. I chair that committee. It has representatives from the national broadcasters, community broadcasters and Commercial Radio Australia—the industry association for commercial broadcasters. That committee has been working for around a year now with a view to developing a set of planning principles which will be adopted by the ACMA in providing for the technical arrangements for the rollout of digital radio services in regional markets where the relevant broadcasters wish to undertake that rollout. A technical subcommittee of that group has been undertaking much of that work and has provided a report to the planning committee, which has been adopted. The next step is for those proposed principles to be formally considered by the ACMA—the authority itself—following which the process of actually planning for the rollout of relevant services can commence.

Senator URQUHART: So that report that the planning committee has done—is that a public report?

Mr Cameron : It has not yet been made public. It has been provided to the authority for consideration and in due course a publication of the planning principles will be undertaken.

Senator URQUHART: A publication of the planning principles, not the actual report?

Mr Cameron : It may well include a component of the report, but the report includes a number of technical and commercially sensitive bits of analysis, so the report as a whole is unlikely to be published. But components are likely to be.

Senator URQUHART: Do you have a time frame for that document?

Mr Cameron : I would be hopeful that the authority will consider those principles before the end of this year and the publication would happen soon thereafter.

Senator DUNIAM: Just briefly, I have a matter that was raised with me back in Tasmania with regard to interference in TV reception by the 4G network. Is that something that we can talk about here?

Mr Bean : Yes.

Senator DUNIAM: It was put to me by a constituent that they had good TV coverage at certain times of the day and not at others on a repeating basis. In talking with others who seem to know a lot more about this than me, it was said—and you can correct me if I am wrong—that the old analog TV spectrum was sold off and some of that went to 4G, which may have led to interference in the TV network. Can you talk me through how that occurred or how we get to this point where people's TV coverage is not as good as it used to be?

Mr Bean : It is certainly the case that, following the digitisation of television broadcasting spectrum that was formerly occupied by analog television broadcasting—this is the so-called digital dividend—was subsequently sold at auction in 2013. It is being used for the provision of mobile data services—4G services—in some areas. There is, under certain specific technical circumstances, the potential for some interference. I do not think it is true to say that it is not as good as it used to be or that coverage is not as good as it used to be. A great deal of effort, needless to say, was put into ensuring that that is not the case. But Mr Tanner, who is the general manager of our infrastructure division, can give you chapter and verse on this issue, I am sure.

Mr Tanner : I certainly agree with Mr Bean's characterisation that coverage is no worse. Coverage is different.

Senator DUNIAM: Sorry, just on that: it is with reference to this particular constituent who has made the point to me, not in general terms.

Mr Tanner : Yes, of course, and I understand how those perceptions take place too. The analog network, which had only a small number of channels on it, did not just stop at the edge of coverage—that is, it was perfect up to a point and then stopped—which is what digital does. It tended to grey out. At the edge of reception you would often find people making do with arrangements that were good enough for them. It might involve some ghosting and might involve pretty old equipment and those sorts of things. When we switched off analog and moved to digital, quite often those people find themselves either not getting a picture or getting a lot of pixilation or suffering from exposure to various reception problems. There are a number of reasons that people experience these problems and, depending on what those reasons are, there are a number of different solutions. So it is quite a complex picture. But there is a lot of information out in public which we are happy to draw you or your constituent to either here or offline.

But I suppose in essence the No. 1 reason that we find that people complain to us about poor reception is inadequate or inappropriate reception equipment, particularly external aerials that may be pointing at the wrong transmitter or the equipment may be worn out and so on. If you do not have optimised equipment and if you do not have the correct external aerial pointed at the correct transmitter or if you are outside of an area of coverage and you do not have a satellite dish pointed at the VAST system then you are more vulnerable to a range of sources of interference. You are right—I think you touched on the issue that on some occasions the switching on of 4G transmitters in the digital dividend or elsewhere in the spectrum near the digital dividend, even services in 800 and 900 megahertz, can actually cause interference. But that is a very limited circumstance and it is a very particular type of interference. It does not sound like your constituent's problem. When you have what we call receiver overload—and that is caused if you have a masthead amplifier installed in your antenna and someone turns on a new 4G base station nearby directly in front of where you are pointing—it will just end all television reception. It is fixed very easily by the installation of a cheap filter. That is a very specific problem and we find it is pretty isolated. There have been a few instances of it around the country, but it tends to affect only a small number of houses in a particular area—and, boy, do you know when it has come, because when that base station goes on there is no more TV for those people until it is fixed.

The sorts of problems that you are describing sound like they could have a number of other causes. One obvious one might be seasonal ducting, which is interfering TV signals from further away coming in when certain climatic conditions, particularly in summer, are present. But there are also some other possible sources. Depending on what those sources are and what particular circumstances of that constituent's position are, I would have to look into what the solution is. The first step always is to go and look at the mySwitch website, which you can put your address and postcode into and it will give you very specific information on whether you are in a terrestrial TV coverage zone and whether you ought to be using the VAST satellite and, if you are in a zone, where your antenna should be pointing and on what channels. That is an issue that you might then take up with a TV antenna installer.

Senator DUNIAM: I have learned a lot about TV reception that I did not think I would today. Obviously, I will need to talk to my constituent a little bit more about the specific details. If I can follow up with you—

Mr Tanner : You are very welcome to follow up. We have made an amount of information in the past available to MPs for precisely this reason. We are very happy to send that material to you specifically to—

Senator DUNIAM: That would be fantastic. I suppose the point I am concerned about is that, up until a point in time, this constituent was able to watch TV quite happily with the equipment they had. Then, at a certain point, something external—be it the 4G network or whatever, I do not know—has impacted on their ability with the existing equipment to watch TV in the comfort of their own home as they have in the past. It seems unfair that they have then got to go and purchase some new equipment or hire someone to come and fix things because of something they did not do. That is my only concern around all of this. As I say, if we can talk further outside of estimates, that might be helpful.

Mr Tanner : We would be happy to continue that discussion offline.

CHAIR: Thank you very much.