In response to the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review, the Federal Government is currently rolling out the following crucial programs as part of the $220 million ‘Stronger Regional Digital Connectivity Package‘ that was originally announced in March 2019.
The Package is designed to improve broadband and mobile services in areas of high economic, social and public safety significance, and includes:
- $160 million for two additional rounds (Rounds 5 & 6) of the Mobile Black Spot Program
– Round 5 outcomes were announced on 21 April 2020.
– 182 additional base stations are being funded, adding to the 1,047 base stations funded in the first four rounds of the program.
– The underspend from Round 5 will be used for Round 5A, which will be used to test new approaches to the program and will prioritise:
o Improving mobile coverage along important transport routeso Strengthening network resilience in disaster-prone areas (including bushfires, floods and cyclones)
o Trialling new technologies that will enable better sharing of infrastructure.
- Submissions to the discussion paper on the design of Round 5A are currently being considered.
- Round 6 of the Mobile Black Spot Program will follow in late 2020 or early 2021.
- $60 million for the Regional Connectivity Program:
-$53 million for Regional Connectivity Program grants:
o for telecommunications infrastructure projects that are outside the NBN fixed line footprint and that will provide a clear economic benefit to local communities.
o Funding will be allocated through a competitive grants round, with applications likely to open within the next month.
o The types of projects that could be supported include: enterprise-grade local broadband networks that support local agricultural or horticultural businesses, regional industry clusters, tourism precincts etc.
o The Government has launched an online noticeboard to help foster links between communities, regional businesses and telecommunications providers who want to develop potential projects.
o The noticeboard will enable interested parties to connect and work together to create proposals.
- – Funding for a Digital Technology Hub that will provide independent factual information on telecommunications options and common problems for people in regional areas.
o The Hub is intended to take on the role of BIRRR (Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia), which is currently performing a similar function on a voluntary basis.
o The Government opened a competitive tender process for the delivery of the Hub on 28 May 2020, and it is expected to be operational from late October 2020.
- – $2 million for Alternative Voice Services Trials that will assess the effectiveness of a range of different technology options for delivering voice telephone services to rural and remote Australians.
o Including assessing potential replacement for the existing high capacity radio concentrator networks.
o A public consultation process on the draft guidelines for the trials closed on 2 June and submissions are now being considered.
- Telecommunications Emergency Resilience PackageThe four main components of the $37 millon package that was announced on 12 May 2020 includes:
1. Improving the resilience of regional and remote mobile phone base stations
2. Portable communications facilities to allow quicker service restoration
3. Program to deliver improved communications
4. Enhanced telecommunications for rural fire authorities and evacuation centres