National Farmers' Federation

New dollars for fixed wireless a win for farmers and regional Australia

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) have commended today’s joint announcement by the Federal Government and NBN Co. (nbn) to invest an additional $750 million to expand the nbn fixed wireless network.

“Today’s commitment will see significant improvements in connectivity options, upload and download speeds, and data allowances for many regional and rural Australians, both on fixed wireless and satellite networks,” NFF Telecommunications Committee Chair and Roma farmer Peter Thompson said.

According to nbn, the investment could see up 120,000 previously satellite-only premises offered access to the fixed wireless network.

“The expanded fixed wireless footprint should provide the opportunity for some customers to transfer off the satellite network. Additionally, fixed wireless customers may see an increase to typical wholesale speeds of up to 100mbps and an increase to typical busy hour speeds of at least 50Mbps. The nbn estimates 85% of this expanded network may see improved download speeds of up to 250 megabytes per second.

“While work remains to be done, this investment is hugely positive. The next step for the Government must be to deliver on the NFF’s call for a multi-billion regional connectivity commitment to resource ongoing network improvement and expansion into the future.

“Such funding and investment certainly will build on the very welcome commitment made today, and seek to minimise the digital divide which exists between regional, rural and remote consumers and their urban counterparts,” Mr Thompson said.

Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association of Australia President and RRRCC spokesperson Alana Moller said: “Reliable, affordable telecommunication and data access is as intrinsically linked to business, lifestyle, education and the health services of regional and remote Australians – as it is for urban Australians.”

Importantly, those who remain on the Sky Muster satellite will see improvements in their connectivity. Customers on Sky Muster Plus plans will see an expansion of their unmetered usage hours, including for usage of VPN and streaming services, and an increase in average monthly allowances for regular Sky Muster plans.

“It is hoped this will make a material difference to many people living, working and educating in remote areas of the country, who have long faced connectivity challenges.

“The RRRCC has long advocated for increased investment in enhanced voice and data connectivity for rural, regional and remote Australia, a call made even more pertinent during the last couple of years.

“The 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review recommended upgrades be made to the regional fixed wireless and satellite network in response to the step change in the current and ongoing demand for data.

“The RRRCC appreciates today’s announcement in response to this and will work with nbn as these investments roll out. We also look forward to further announcements of the Government’s response to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review,” Ms Moller said.

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