A great deal has happened since the last Special Telecoms Edition of the Information age.

The Federal government’s mobile black spots program has kicked off and identified an additional 6000 sites across Australia in need of attention[1]. Analogue television is now a thing of the past and we have all had to return our television sets to pick up the new digital free-to-air-channels. The cost benefit analysis of the National Broadband Network (NBN) has been carried out[2] and delivered some interesting results including the statement that multi-technology mix scenario was one of the least worst ways to continue the roll-out of the NBN. The MTM scenario assumes a combination of fibre to the premises (FTTP), FTTN, HFC and fixed wireless and satellite solutions (as set out in the NBN Co Strategic Review).

In line with the Government's deregulation agenda, Federal Government announced a review of the spectrum policy and management framework. The current framework is to be modernised to reflect changes in technology, markets and consumer preferences that have occurred over the last decade and to address the increasing demand for spectrum from all sectors[3].

The other big news this last year was that GSM’s days are numbered reflecting our ever increasing appetite for higher data rates. Data rates measured in Kbps just don’t cut it in the world of smart phones and constant connection.

The challenges faced by Australia’s digital economy are however largely unchanged. They remain many and complex. It is, however, the area of most potential gain and where the greatest opportunity exists. It is almost true that the “digital economy” has largely become “the economy” with an accelerating push for delivery of Services of all kinds in digital, online, immediate form in all sectors. This inherently creates a series of workforce and skill challenges that also need to be addressed. On the demand side the level of digital literacy will be a critical success factor for citizen uptake of services. On the supply side, the challenges are largely wrapped around breaking the paradigms of the past while addressing concerns of privacy, dealing with risk in a digital world and designing services fit for digital purpose. That means introducing new skills and capabilities into industries and Government agencies to achieve a positive digital transformation.

It cannot be overstated that the real potential of national broadband infrastructure, in whatever form, is enabled when all Australians have access to meaningful, high speed communications. If the data rates are sufficient, the connections reliable, and access is available to everyone, we can change the way services are generated and delivered, and change the way people interact with services and each other.

This special Telecoms Supplement of ACS’s Information Age allows us to highlight a number of issues relevant to the “C” in ICT and is brought to you by the ACS Telecoms Board and the Telecoms Society of Australia (ACS-TSA) a telecoms special interest group within the ACS. It includes a discussion paper on public safety networks, a paper looking at challenges of the delivery of 21st century services in remote Australia, and a white paper looking at the challenges of digital delivery of aged care services as an example of what can be done and the non-technical challenges which limit uptake.

Most importantly, this Special Edition proudly highlights a new Australian technology development which can comfortably claim a world first in speed and performance for wireless backhaul. The article “World’s fastest wireless backhaul radio - a case study in industry-research collaboration” is just that; a powerful example of collaboration between CSIRO and a small Australian Telecoms company based in Qld taking on a global market opportunity.

Telecoms is one of the factors driving the ongoing transformation of our society, economy and way of life. Beyond the infrastructure and regulation provided by government, Australia needs innovators, visionary and leading thinkers from all sectors to address the challenges and seize the opportunities created by a connected digital society.

Australia has a long and proud tradition of innovation. The opportunities lay before us.

Dr Ian Oppermann

Chairman, ACS Telecoms Board

[1] Available online as an interactive map http://www.communications.gov.au/mobile_services/mobile_black_spot_programme/mobile_black_spot_programme_interactive_map

[2] Available online http://www.communications.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/243039/Cost-Benefit_Analysis_-_FINAL_-_For_Publication.pdf

[3] For more information see http://www.communications.gov.au/consultation_and_submissions/spectrum_review