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Govt should consider manufacturing 5G equipment in Aust

Recommends 5G research and development fund

The House Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts has put forward its 5G Inquiry Report to Parliament, signalling the government should investigate ways to manufacture 5G infrastructure within Australia. 

This was one of 14 recommendations in the report, which further stated the Department of Industry, Science and Technology could initially work with “Australian telecommunications and related industry partners to examine how Australia could actively participate in the manufacture of components and equipment for use in the rollout of 5G networks.”

Furthermore, it recommended that manufacturing partnerships could be established between Canada, New Zealand, UK and US. 

To help push this initiative along, the report said the Australian government should establish a 5G R&D Innovation Fund to help fast track and scale-up the development of alternative manufacturing approaches “to reduce the duopoly of dependency on 5G related equipment.”

“Australia has an opportunity to be a centre of 5G equipment component manufacturing, a place for communication technology startups to develop their ideas and a nation connected,” Committee chair Dr David Gillespie said.

Another recommendation also focused on legislative arrangements enforcing network and data security for the supply of 5G equipment whereby “it must be incumbent on vendors to enforce cyber supply chain risk management throughout procurement, roll out and maintenance of the 5G network.”

Gillespie said the capabilities of 5G offered the opportunity for innovation and connectivity. 

“We are at a point where enough is known about the standards and safety of 5G technology to allow businesses of all sizes, communities, governments and individuals to imagine new use cases and new opportunities and help them come into being,” Gillespie said. 

He pointed out a couple of use cases including Adelaide-based vehicle communication provider, Cohda Wireless and the work it was doing in advancing vehicles to communicate with traffic systems, using 5G.

Another example involved Western Australia-based farmers and their digital reliance for being productive and competitive in the agricultural space. 

Gillespie also addressed the vast amount of misinformation about the safety and impact of 5G, saying it received a large amount of information from inquiry participants who were concerned over the deployment of 5G and asserted that 5G would have a detrimental impact on human health. 

“The Committee heard from a number of Australian Government agencies and officials that 5G is safe for humans,” he stated. 

“Perhaps some confusion comes from the new spectrum bands 5G will use. The committee heard that ‘higher frequency does not mean higher power’, and that, in fact, devices will operate at a lower power due to focusing the 5G signal only to where it is required and the increased number of antennae, which means that users will have less exposure than under previous generations of mobile technology.”

Both the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) and Communications Alliance threw their support behind the 5G Inquiry Report.

AMTA CEO, Chris Althaus said he was looking forward to working with the government on the report’s recommendations to ensure the right regulatory environment and essential 5G mobile infrastructure is in place to enable all Australians, including those in rural and regional areas, to benefit from the productivity and connectivity 5G will enable.

Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, added 5G will deliver unprecedented opportunity across the community and economy, and it will now take time to consider the details of this report which is built on 12 months of thorough analysis and discussion with the science and research sector, industry and community representatives.

The report comes as the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will run the 26Ghz spectrum auction in early 2021. 

The 26Ghz spectrum is the first mmWave band wave that will be auctioned for use for 5G services.  

At the time, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, asked the ACCC for advice on whether limits should be imposed on the auction in order to protect and promote competition, and how these should be applied, with advice due this month.