ACMA approves GPS repeater trials in Sydney and Melbourne tunnels

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has approved a number of trials of GPS repeating within road tunnels in Sydney and Melbourne.

ACMA said on Monday it was initially working with emergency services on the trials, which could result in a licensing arrangement for the devices.

Currently, the retransmission of a radionavigation-satellite service, which includes GPS, is currently forbidden by the Radiocommunications Act 1992 since it could interfere with signals. ACMA is in the midst of conducting a review of the ban.

“Should the trials be successful and the devices licenced for long-term use, the transport sector and general community would also benefit from enhanced in-tunnel navigation capability — including more accurate estimated times of arrival, and earlier warnings about in-tunnel congestion and lane changes,” ACMA said.

“The ACMA is also willing to consider applications from other transport authorities that are interested in trialling GPS repeaters in road tunnels.”

Last month, Transport for New South Wales was looking for permission to install GPS repeaters in the tunnels under Sydney to test the impact it would have on emergency services, as well as GPS units and smartphones.

“As many motorists know, GPS signals don’t work in road tunnels because they lose the line of sight to satellites. Some vehicles use other technology but GPS is the most accurate and is used by emergency services,” Transport for NSW deputy secretary for greater Sydney Elizabeth Mildwater said in August.

“The freight industry — one of the primary users of tunnels — also uses GPS to actively provide information on tracking and on-board communication. With the delivery of major tunnel projects across Sydney like WestConnex, NorthConnex, M6 Stage 1, Western Harbour Tunnel, and Beaches Link, it’s important we act as soon as possible.”

At the end of last year, Transurban claimed it had ended GPS dropouts in tunnels in Brisbane, but rather than using repeaters, it used Bluetooth beacons.

“To access improved navigation motorists simply need to turn on their Bluetooth and use the Waze or Google Maps app when travelling through a tunnel,” Transurban said.

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