The electromagnetic spectrum is an essential part of life for everyone, we just don’t realise how we use it or why it is important. In today’s ‘connected’ world we use wireless communications, which uses the electromagnetic spectrum to transfer information every day, probably without realising it.

How is electromagnetic spectrum used in Australia?

From the original radio broadcasting systems of the early 1900’s, followed by television and other developments spectrum is critical to many communication methods. From the 1950’s the radio communications industry has continually improved transmission techniques to achieve more and more from the limited spectrum capacity. These improvements are still ongoing.

In today’s world as well as historical uses such as broadcasting and radio communications, we now have mobile phone networks, mobile broadband which also require electromagnetic spectrum to operate. With continual innovations in the way we communicate new technologies such as the ‘Internet of Things’ and ‘Smart cities’ are opening up machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and further automating the way we do business. Spectrum is critical for new developments in wireless communications technology.

Management and protection of the electromagnetic spectrum

Although there are still segments of the electromagnetic spectrum being developed for use, in general terms the spectrum is a ‘finite resource’, and there is a limit to how much use we can achieve out of certain sections. The Australian Government has appointed the Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA) to manage and regulate spectrum allocation, but there needs to be greater industry participation to ensure that use requirements of critical wireless communications such as two way radio are understood. The radio communications industry and ARCIA have always respected the electromagnetic spectrum and work closely with the ACMA to keep it efficient and clear of interference. 

It is essential that equipment using the electromagnetic spectrum only uses the segments that they are authorised to use. To do this, industry and Government bodies put equipment standards in place to ensure that transmissions are in the correct spectrum area and don’t interfere with other segments. The industry continually develops better technology to ensure that correct transmissions are both efficient and correct, as well as protected against unwanted interfering signals.

What is the role of ARCIA and its members in protecting spectrum?

With decades of experience, the wireless communications industry has learned how to best utilise and protect the spectrum. ARCIA members understand that without a clean and effective spectrum their clients and businesses will suffer. This has meant that ARCIA members are amongst the most knowledgeable in many factors concerning the spectrum. ARCIA also take an active role in working with the ACMA – see our responses to ACMA Discussion Papers here.