news Private telecommunications firms are the most cost-effective option for delivering mobile broadband to public safety agencies, according to a Productivity Commission report.
Mobile broadband technology can play a role in saving lives and property, improving officer safety and driving productivity gains in the delivery of public safety services. It enables frontline officers to access high-speed video, images, location tracking and more.
However, public safety organisations such as police, fire and ambulance groups have made the argument for some time that a separate mobile network meeting a public safety grade was needed to provide separate services to those already available from commercial telcos.
The report (pdf) released by the Productivity Commission this week evaluates a range of options for delivering a public safety mobile broadband capability to Australia’s public safety agencies, including use of a dedicated network, an existing commercial network and combinations of the two.
The commission found that the commercial option would be significantly lower cost than either a dedicated or hybrid option.
“A commercial option is substantially lower cost because considerable existing infrastructure could be used or shared, meaning significantly less new investment is required,” said Commissioner Jonathan Coppel.
The commission said it has assessed the risks of each option and that, while the nature and magnitude of risks varied across options, no option was clearly preferred on the basis of risk factors alone.
Since the benefits of each option are not expected to vary significantly, the commission indicated that its cost evaluation provides the best guide to net community benefit. The cost differential estimated was around $4 billion, it said.
“Small-scale pilots would provide an opportunity for jurisdictions to gain confidence in a commercial approach, gauge the costs and benefits of the capability more precisely and develop a business case for a wider scale roll out,” said Coppel.
“With mobile broadband technology, the potential to achieve interoperability within and across jurisdictions is within reach and would bring significant additional benefits,” he continued.
However, this would depend on jurisdictions agreeing to common interoperability protocols and making arrangements for sharing information and network capacity among agencies.
The Productivity Commission is the Australian Government’s independent research and advisory body on a range of economic, social and environmental issues affecting the welfare of Australians.