The Australian Government is investing $1.3 billion in regional telecommunications in response to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications review.
The centrepiece of the Government’s response is the $811.8 million Connecting Regional Australia initiative, delivering targeted investment across regional, rural and remote Australia and in the urban fringe over 5 years to build digital infrastructure and skills.
A key objective is to provide an estimated 8,000 kms of new open access mobile coverage, giving consumers a greater choice of providers. Connecting Regional Australia will also fund:
- place-based and targeted investment to address gaps in broadband and other telecommunication services
- better network resilience in vulnerable locations
- trials of emerging technology
- improvements to connectivity in Indigenous communities
- enhancements to affordability for low income and income support consumers in regional Australia.
The second key part of the response is the major upgrade of the entire NBN fixed wireless network announced on 22 March 2022, with flow-on benefits for Sky Muster services.
The NBN fixed wireless network will be extended to an additional 120,000 premises. All premises in the fixed wireless footprint will also be able to access higher speeds. NBN Sky Muster users will benefit from increased data allowances and extended off-peak hours.
In addition, $5 million over 5 years will expand and continue the Regional Tech Hub to improve consumer support.
A range of policy and regulatory work will take place, including standards, rules and benchmarks for statutory infrastructure providers, developing wholesale and retail standards for other fixed and mobile services in regional Australia, and looking for better ways to deliver the Universal Service Guarantee.
The Government has provided a comprehensive and substantive response to the 12 recommendations of the Review. This response will help drive major improvements to telecommunications access, performance and resilience across the regions.
Where to from here?
The Government will consult soon on principles for a new framework for a more coordinated and strategic approach to regional communications investment, followed by consultation on program design over the next few months. This will underpin the provision of funding under Connecting Regional Australia from the second half of 2022.
For more information on the Government’s response and to read the Committee’s report, A Step Change in Demand, visit the Review’s website.