Future wireless savings could be hit by spectrum shortage

Wireless devices saved Australian businesses $22 billion last year, but achieving ongoing savings will depend on the result of spectrum land grabs.

Wireless devices saved Australian businesses $22 billion last year, but achieving ongoing savings will depend on the result of spectrum land grabs.

New figures from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) show there are about four wireless devices for every three Australians. Although technology users tend not to think about spectrum - until their tablets and smartphones fail to connect - industry is fighting over what is left of the frequencies not already allocated to telcos to carry the services they say will fuel the connected Australia of the future.

Rival groups from device makers and broadcasters to scientists and emergency services are laying claim to this finite and expensive resource.

ACMA chairman and chief executive officer Chris Chapman said wireless broadband had contributed to productivity growth of 0.2 per cent since 2007, leading to an $18 billion higher GDP.

"Mobile broadband is already having a significant impact on the Australian economy," he said.

Wireless devices saved Australian businesses $22 billion in costs and $14 billion in employee time over the past year, modelling by the Centre for International Economics found. Of the 71 per cent of businesses that had wireless broadband, a third said it saved them money and another quarter reported boosted sales of at least 5 per cent. Research found wireless broadband cut costs for those surveyed overall by 1.5 per cent and saved 2.2 per cent in employee time a year.

Visiting US scholar and director of the Centre for the Digital Future in California, Jeffrey Cole, said the US had "squandered" its digital dividend - the reallocation of spectrum from analog to digital services.

He said nations must save spectrum for public interest purposes and research and not just auction it off to the highest bidder.

Full story: theage.com.au/it-pro

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