The federal government will set aside $480 million in next week’s budget to upgrade telecommunications infrastructure in regional Australia.
The investment will support a $750 million upgrade to improve the speed and range of NBN fixed wireless services which will also increase the data limits available through the Sky Muster satellite service. NBN Co will provide the other $270 million, with the work expected to take around two years.
Speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) will be available at 750,000 premises across the upgraded coverage area, with the option for a 250 megabits per second service available at 85 per cent of premises.
This also means improved speeds when the network is most heavily used which can be expected to increase from about 6Mbps to at least 50Mbps, meaning customers can experience higher speeds on their current plans.
Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher said the upgrades would substantially improve the range of telecommunications services.
“By using the latest 4G and 5G wireless technology, this upgrade will extend the coverage range from a tower and allow higher speed services to everyone served by the tower,” Mr Fletcher said.
“This means more people can be served by NBN fixed wireless; it means higher speed services on the NBN fixed wireless network; and it means higher amounts of data can be used by households and business customers. The upgrade will expand the fixed wireless footprint coverage by up to 50 per cent, enabling 120,000 additional premises to access fixed wireless services instead of Sky Muster satellite services.”
The work will also move some NBN satellite customers to the upgraded fixed wireless service. This means satellite customers can be offered higher average monthly data allowances on Sky Muster plans, of 55 gigabytes in the short term and 90 gigabytes when work on the fixed wireless service finishes.
Minister for Finance Simon Birmingham said that around 50,000 regional businesses will benefit from the active fixed wireless improvements.
The forthcoming investment follows an investigation by the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review chaired by Senator Luke Hartsuyker. The committee tabled its report in parliament on 14 February, which included 12 recommendations for the improvement of regional services.
Minister for Regional Communications Senator Bridget McKenzie said the improvements would help bridge the digital divide faced by many Australian communities.
“The NBN is a critical part of our national infrastructure and economy, enabling employment, connecting families, and supporting business. This investment provides a comprehensive response to Recommendation Six of the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review, and is one part of a suite of measures we will announce as part of the Liberal and National Government’s response to the Review in coming weeks,” Senator McKenzie said.
One of the recommendation was for an extension of the NBN fixed wireless range and connection speed.
This budget announcement also supports the government’s digital economy strategy 2030, which aims to cement Australia as a leader along indicators for a data and digital economy.
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