Thursday, 25 April 2019

Community partnerships by Australian mobile carriers highlighted at international conference


Australia’s mobile network carriers must be more open and transparent when working with local councils and the community to deliver network upgrades under new industry rules designed to give communities more say in where phone towers are sited, the Mobile Carriers Forum has told an international conference.


Representatives from the MCF, Optus, Telstra and Vodafone told an audience of scientists, risk experts, government and community representatives from around the world that under the new rules mobile carriers faced penalties if they did not improve their approach to community consultation and engagement when building new infrastructure to meet the growing demand for mobile and wireless services in Australia.


“Developed by a committee of prominent consumer, community, industry and government representatives, the new code will give communities and councils access to clearer information about plans for new mobile phone facilities in their local area and give them more time to consider the proposals,” MCF Program Manager Ray McKenzie told the international conference of the Bioelectromagnetics Society (BEMS) in Brisbane last month.


“We believe the new Communications Alliance Industry Code for Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment is unquestionably a world’s best-practice approach to encourage co-operation, accountability and transparency in industry and community relationships in the provision of network infrastructure.”


The ACMA, which registered the new code to come into force from 1 July  2012, said it will make carriers more transparent and accountable for their decision making, more consistent in the information they provide to communities and more responsive to community feedback.


“The new code raises the bar on community consultation and transparency about carriers installing mobile phone base stations and I expect that it will help to address recent community concerns about the location of new base stations,” ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman said.


The MCF have also been working to get carriers and their consultants up to speed with the requirements of the new code with a series of workshops held in major capitals around the country to ensure the mobile phone industry is ready to comply with the code’s more extensive community consultation requirements.


New Deployment Code

Deployment teams from Optus, Telstra and Vodafone and their contractors in charge of rolling out new mobile network sites were briefed on how to tailor community consultation plans to meet the needs of councils and local residents.


“Under the new industry code deployment teams must develop a comprehensive plan for how they will consult with the local community for each new network site outlining how they will notify residents and councils and why,” Mr McKenzie said.


“Carriers will also use clearer wording in the letters and signage they create when notifying councils and the community about changes to the network.”


Mr McKenzie said residents who may be concerned about a proposed network antenna in their neighbourhood will now be able to log on to the updated Radio Frequency National Site Archive website and access information about a proposal under the new ‘consultation’ tab.


“The new consultation page provides information about the proposed deployment, including technical details, location (including a dynamic map), and proposed consultation activities such as community information session details and contact details,” Mr McKenzie said.


“Any changes to the proposal, including changes to the consultation plan as a result of feedback received, will also be notified on the site so that the page forms a complete record of all the important community relevant information relating to the proposed deployment.”


“The content and layout of the consultation plan are provided in the new Code so that industry and communities can benefit from a standard suite of information laid out in such a way that affected parties can quickly find the information that they require “


A mobile version of the RFNSA site, called NSA Buddy, has also been developed and is ideal for access via a smartphone or tablet.


“The Australian community wants great mobile coverage and minimal environmental impact. Our challenge is to deliver this and we believe the revised Code and upgraded RFNSA site are two key components in achieving this goal,” Mr McKenzie said.


10 Communications Alliance Code revision improvements:


Renaming the code to the Communications Alliance Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment Industry Code to clarify its purpose.

2.  Improved consultation plans to be ‘fit for purpose’.
3.  New community consultation web portal for new base stations to provide significant improvement to information, transparency and access.
4.  Extended timeframe for Councils to review consultation plans (5-10 days).
5.  Extended timeframe for community consultation and feedback (10-15 days).
6.  Additional time for community response if required (5 additional days).
7.  Improved and clearer information letters signs which carriers will use when notifying and consulting with local council and the community.
8.  Up-to-date RF Electro-Magnetic Radiation (EMR) health and safety information, reports and signage in keeping with the current and relevant Australian standards.
9.  New Communications Alliance information portal.
10.  Online availability of consultation reports.

Bookmark and Share