The possibilities of mobile internet for public safety are numerous. For starters, radios could be done away with, ambulance drivers could access videos to help diagnosis, the police could use location tracking and transmit evidence, and fire departments could access building plans.
The Productivity Commission have produced a draft report for delivering such a system. It outlines three approaches: a dedicated network built by the government, contracting with a mobile carrier, or a combination of the two.
There are a number of factors involved in the decision, such as national scalability, reliability, security, and compatability with lots of devices. But there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the three approaches in terms of quality:
The benefits of each option are not expected to vary markedly, since the options under evaluation have been designed to deliver a similar level of PSMB capability. On that basis, the cost evaluation is likely to provide the best guide to net community benefit for each option.
So, the real choice hinges on how much each option costs. The Commission estimates that building a dedicated system would cost $AUD 6.1 billion over twenty years. Contracting with a commercial operator would cost $AUD 2.1 billion, while a hybrid option would predictably fall somewhere in the middle.
But Australia can look to other countries when making this decision. The United States, South Korea and Canada have all announced plans to build dedicated networks (the more expensive option), while the United Kingdom is planning a commercial system and Belgium already has one operational.
The Productivity Commission are accepting comments on the report until October 28. It will be submitted to the Federal Government later in the year, where it might be one of the biggest tech decisions of Malcolm Turnbull’s young prime ministership.
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