A mobile NBN needed for remote Australia

The Broadband for the Bush Alliance says the National Broadband Network (NBN) should be used to boost mobile coverage across all of Australia including the most remote areas. This follows a recent industry call to allow mobile providers access to the NBN.

Vodafone’s recently commissioned McKell Institute report Superfast Broadband: The future is in your hands outlined how tweaking the NBN to include mobile services could relieve network congestion in cities and dramatically extend mobile coverage in regional Australia.

The Alliance goes one step further, arguing that mobile coverage needs to extend to the 3% of premises currently set to receive NBN satellite internet.

“Mobile access is an essential element for the future of remote and rural Australia. While we support many of the report’s recommendations, when discussing mobile coverage we simply can’t forget the bush!” said John Huigen, Chair, Broadband for the Bush Alliance.

The Alliance’s position is reflected in the findings of the 2011-2012 Regional Telecommunications Review which found that mobile communications is the most important issue for remote and rural Australians.

“As demand for mobile broadband continues to grow, the time to invest in improved mobile coverage is now – it needs to be part of the plan,” said Mr Huigen.

Extending mobile coverage in remote Australia could be achieved using a range of technologies, such as the NBN and existing infrastructure. The Coalition said in its broadband policy statement that wherever possible NBN infrastructure should be open for mobile providers to improve services.

The Alliance warns that competition alone will not address the unmet demand for mobile services in remote and rural Australia, where there is clear market failure. Other strategies, including government assistance, are needed to ensure digital inclusion and affordability.

“There are a number of opportunities here – sharing existing towers and cable as well as using satellite for backhaul are among them,” said Mr Huigen.

“Seizing these opportunities will join remote and rural Australia to a shared digital future. Accessing digital infrastructure is key to retaining and attracting people in the bush and accessing the economic benefits that flow from this. A quality mobile connection for remote and rural regions is important for Australia as a nation, and an opportunity not to be missed,” said Mr Huigen.

John Huigen
M: 0448 515 563 E: john.huigen@desertknowledge.com.au

Broadband for the Bush Alliance is:
Australian Communications Consumers Action Network, Central Desert Shire Council, Central Land Council, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Centre for Remote Health, Desert Knowledge Australia,
Frontier Services, Indigenous Remote Communications Association, Katherine Town Council, Ninti One, Regional Development Australia Northern Territory, Remote Area Planning and Development
Board, Swinburne University of Technology.

Background The Broadband for the Bush Alliance comprises 13 diverse organisations that are committed to the digital inclusion of remote and rural Australia. For more information click here.

Additional information Vodafone commissioned McKell Institute report Superfast Broadband: The future is in your hands.