Australian broadband: More money into telco and NBN infrastructure; Better connectivity in Victoria; Andy Penn retires; ACCC inquiry into mobile tower access

The current news on 5G, broadband, and telecommunications services that Australian IT relies on.

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Australia federal budget 2022-2023: telecom spending

The Australia federal government has announced $1.3 billion in funding to improve regional telecommunications infrastructure and connectivity in regional, rural, remote, and peri-urban areas as part of the 2022-2023 budget.

$811.8 million will go towards the Connecting Regional Australia Initiative to expand mobile coverage and improve connectivity, resilience, and affordability. It will expand regional mobile coverage and address black spots on as much as 8,000km of roads and adjacent households, businesses, and tourist hot spots.

Funding will also be provided to establish the Cell Broadcast National Messaging System (CBNMS) that will deliver warning messages to mobile phones, locally, regionally, and nationally, in near real time.

More money goes into NBN Co.

The Australian federal government has announced a further $480 million investment so NBN Co. can expand the fixed-wireless NBN broadband coverage by up to 50% through the latest 4G and 5G cellular technology and let 120,000 additional premises access fixed-wireless services instead of Sky Muster satellite services.

NBN Co., which will contribute $270 million out of its own funds, expects this upgrade to benefit as many as 1 million premises in regional, rural, remote, and peri-urban areas to access higher fixed-wireless NBN speeds or higher data limits on Sky Muster satellite services.

As a result of the investment, NBN will offer new higher speed services to the fixed-wireless network: 100Mbps to all 750,000 premises able to access the expanded coverage footprint, and 250Mbps service to 85% of premises.

Also, by freeing up capacity on the satellite network, as more users gain access to fixed-wireless services, those customers still on Sky Muster will have “almost immediate” increase in data allowance, NBN Co. said, with average monthly data allowances increasing to 55GB in the short term, increasing to 90GB once the upgrade is complete in two years.

NBN Co. also announced that an upgrade is available for 50,000 customers on fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) service to upgrade to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) service. This upgrade will users access services with download speeds of as high as 100Mbps, 250Mbps, or even close to 1Gbps, based on location. Currently, the FTTP service is available in some suburbs across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia.

Connectivity improvement to 54 suburbs in Victoria

A $73 million investment will see improved connectivity across 54 suburbs in Victoria, with more than 34,000 homes and 7,700 businesses benefiting from the two-year investment.

The deal between the state government and NBN Co. will improve broadband connections with more than 1,000km of fibre allowing for speeds of as fast as 1Gbps.

Part of the funding will go towards Business Fibre Zones where the Victoria government is subsiding infrastructure to minimise costs for businesses. Businesses in these zones can start connecting from April.

All fibre funded by the government is due to be rolled out by mid-2024, with some locations being able to connect from mid-2023.

The announcement is part of the $550 million Connecting Victoria program which in August 2021 saw Telstra, the Victoria government, and Olam Orchards work together to improve connectivity between Wemen and Beverford in northern Victoria, including a 40km stretch of the Murray Valley Highway. The area is where almond producer Olam is located.

Andy Penn to retire as Telstra CEO

Andrew Penn has announced plans to retire after being CEO of the largest telecommunications provider in Australia, Telstra, for seven years.

As of 1 September 2022, current CFO Vicki Brady will take over from Penn as Telstra’s CEO. Brady has worked for KPMG and in a range of financial, commercial, and strategic roles before taking on C-level roles. She joined Telstra in 2016.

ACCC investigates access to mobile towers

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will conduct a public inquiry into access to regional mobile towers and into the feasibility of providing mobile roaming during natural disasters and other emergencies.

A main reason for the inquiry is that Telstra and Optus have sold part ownership of their tower networks to third parties in the last year, said Pau Fletcher, minister for communications, urban infrastructure, cities, and the arts.

The inquiry will also look into whether roaming can be activated in an area where there is a disaster or other emergency, regardless of which telco locals may be using.

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