The Australian Labor Party wants to improve mobile coverage on Australian roads, in regional communities and on farms in its bid to be elected in the upcoming 2022 Federal Election. A big part of this policy is… Strapping mobile signal measurement devices to Australia Post trucks. Huh.
Labor is willing to devote $400 million to improving mobile coverage across multiple carriers, for both homes and businesses. It’s a part of Labor’s “Better Connectivity For Rural and Regional Australia” plan.
“This is a comprehensive, targeted plan that will ensure better mobile coverage on roads, on farms and across regional communities, and better broadband too,” says Anthony Albanese, the leader of the Australian Labor Party.
“This is critical to modern agriculture and making sure Australian farms are as efficient and competitive as they can be.”
This news comes after some pretty big developments around regional and rural Australian communications announcements. Last month, Telstra and TPG penned a deal to improve network quality in regional Australia by combining their network assets, effectively giving customers of either carrier access to signals on both networks. Telstra has also been working hard on satellite internet, after announcing partnerships with Viasat and OneWeb.
The need for strong network coverage to exist in regional and rural areas is considerably urgent. During the Lismore floods, major network operators lost signal, preventing users from calling loved ones, calling for help and restricting access to crucial information online. The Liberal National Party, shortly after, announced a boost for telcos in combatting outages during natural disasters.
Anyway, under Labor’s plan, $20 million will go towards an independent national audit of mobile coverage, to identify which roads and areas should be prioritised. This will involve consultation with Infrastructure Australia.
In doing this, mobile signal measurement devices will be placed on Australia Post’s transport assets (so vans, trucks and cars) to identify the best information around mobile dead spots. A tender will be issued to a private company that will handled these devices. Australia Post vehicles tend to cover a lot of Australian road, so they could be a useful resource in identifying weak signal areas.
Further, $30 million would go towards farms to help expand connectivity and provide better wireless extension tools on the property, allowing for smarter and more connected agriculture production. Additionally, $6 million will go towards the Regional Tech Hub, which acts as a source of free independent advice for regional farms and communities.
“Improving regional connectivity is a top priority for Labor. This is why we have committed to a better plan for the NBN, and a smarter plan for expanding regional mobile coverage,” added Michelle Rowland, the Shadow Minister for Communications.
“We will grow the economy by investing in productivity enhancing digital infrastructure, as well as improving quality of life for regional communities and road commuters through better mobile coverage.”
This is on top of Labor’s existing plan to expand fibre NBN access to 660,000 regional homes and businesses, upgrade NBN fixed wireless network speeds to offer speeds between 100mbps and 250mbps for all users and to expand NBN satellite data allowances.