High–speed broadband "at affordable prices" and the continuation of the Mobile Black Spot Program are some of the plans for rural and regional Australia revealed in the 2017 Federal Budget, announced by Treasurer Scott Morrison tonight.
"$29.5 billion in equity in the National Broadband Network and will provide a commercial loan of up to $19.5 billion to NBN Co Limited to be repaid by June 2021," a statement from the office of Communications and the Arts reads.
"Delivering high–speed broadband to remote and regional Australia is a key priority. By the end of April 2017, services were already available to over two million of these homes and businesses through fixed line, fixed wireless and satellite infrastructure, and will be available to around 3.6 million remote and regional premises by 2020."
The Australian Government is also implementing the Regional Broadband Scheme, where all fixed line network owners (including NBN) will "contribute funding proportionally to the size of their networks, replacing NBN's internal cross-subsidy."
The Government says this is to "provide a sustainable and transparent funding source for NBN's fixed wireless and satellite networks. The company's fixed wireless and satellite networks provide essential broadband services to regional Australians and are expected to be largely complete in 2018."
The Mobile Black Spot Program will continue, with the Government's investment of $160.0 million for rounds one and two from 2015–16 going towards 765 new or upgraded base stations across regional and remote Australia.
"In total, rounds 1 and 2 of the program will deliver more than $598.0 million in new investment including co-investment from state governments, third parties and mobile network operators. The Australian Government has committed an additional $60.0 million from 2017–18 to 2019–20 to target specific mobile black spots announced during the 2016 election," the statement reads.
114 Optus, 577 Telstra and 74 Vodafone base stations will be deployed.
Optus owns and maintains the largest fleet of satellites across Australia, but at the same time the number-two telco can't rival its larger competitor Telstra for mobile network coverage in rural and remote parts of Australia. It makes sense, then, for Optus to boost its coverage in black spots using a series of small cells — lower-powered portable radio nodes that are much easier to install than a full mobile tower — that connect to its satellite network. And that's exactly what the company is doing.