Radio spectrum is a collective grouping of various radio waves that devices use to communicate with each other. Radio waves are used by a variety of communications devices from everyday life, such mobile phones, your home wi-fi and even the remote control for your garage door. On a larger scale, radio spectrum is used by defence, emergency services organisations, utility providers and scientists to communicate and conduct research.
Radio waves can travel at different frequencies and wavelengths. This makes them suitable for some purposes and not others. In Australia, the frequency most used for voice radio communications is located in the 400MHz band, while frequency suitable for mobile broadband can be found in the higher frequency ranges, such as the 700 and 2600MHz ranges.
The Government Radio Network and other government owned networks use spectrum in the 400 MHz band (403-430 MHz and 450-470 MHz) for voice communications. Dedicated spectrum in these bands has been set aside by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) as part of a national reform project designed to enhance the ability of government agencies across all states to effectively communicate in emergencies.
The Commonwealth Government, through the ACMA, regulates and allocates all spectrum. As more and more wireless communication devices enter the market the demand for spectrum will continue to rise. Government, which is a large user of spectrum for public safety purposes needs to ensure that its allocation of spectrum continues to fit its needs. The NSW Telco Authority is the NSW Government agency with responsibility for negotiating with ACMA on frequency allocations. The Authority will do this not only for the networks it manages, but also on behalf of all NSW agencies. This ensures a centrally coordinated approach to spectrum assignments and use.
An excellent pictorial explanation of spectrum in Australia called Spectrum Illustrated is available on the ACMA website. Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to download the poster as a png image (zipped 3.9MB, unzipped 4.1MB).