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As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to expand it is important that regulators around the world begin to identify any requirement for a regulatory framework to further facilitate its development. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is embarking on an assessment of the country’s readiness for IoT; it is seeking feedback by December 14, 2015 on key areas such as spectrum, security, and interoperability. The regulator is initially aiming to devise strategies that encourage and enable innovation and the adoption of IoT through infrastructure planning, device standards, and information reliability. In the longer term the focus will need to shift toward problem-solving strategies around security and obstacles such as roaming.

The ACMA may wish to expand its consultation to include white spaces and roaming

The ACMA is not the first regulator to review its approach to IoT – a handful around the world, including those of the UK and Singapore, have so far explored this area. Until now the Australian regulator has not introduced any specific guidelines with regard to IoT. In its consultation the ACMA is looking to tackle several areas, including the allocation of spectrum and numbering, managing network security and integrity, and the setting of standards, as well as improving digital literacy among businesses and consumers. Wherever possible it will look to adapt existing regulation, although it will also consider new initiatives specifically to support IoT services.

Maintaining competition is a major priority for the ACMA; it has traditionally done so in the telecoms sector by facilitating access to infrastructure. To ensure competition with regard to IoT the regulator is looking at net neutrality issues, device interoperability, and the availability of data portability. It hopes to introduce standards to support the seamless transfer of large amounts of data, striking the right balance between privacy and security protection without hindering the functionality of devices. A key concern is the use of mobile numbers, the supply of which is finite, for M2M services. The ACMA may need to introduce a separate range for these services as demand increases. The expectation is that it will shift to IP-based addressing.

Ovum noted in the report Regulating the Internet of Things thatthese areas will need regulatory attention in the future. However, the ACMA could approach IoT in a more comprehensive way by exploring in more detail the possibility of M2M devices using spectrum white spaces. The regulator noted interest in the use of spectrum white spaces in its “Five-year Spectrum Outlook 2014–2018” but has not explicitly considered doing so for IoT.

The current consultation does not touch on the issue of roaming. However, given that connected devices often operate as permanent roamers, the ACMA will eventually need to consider this issue. The sector can benefit from more clarity and explicit rules here.


Further reading

Regulating the Internet of Things, TE0007-000897(April 2015)

“Regulating the IoT requires intervention in five key areas,” TE0007-000900(April 2015)


Sarah McBride, Analyst, Regulation

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