The federal government is promising higher speeds and bigger data limits for NBN customers in regional, rural and remote parts of Australia with a multimillion-dollar budget pledge for critical infrastructure.
Minister for communications, urban infrastructure, cities and the arts Paul Fletcher issued a joint statement with Bridget McKenzie and Simon Birmingham on Tuesday, announcing $480 million would be allocated in the upcoming budget for critical infrastructure projects like the NBN.
NBN Co will contribute $270 million for the total network upgrade costs, which are expected to total approximately $750 million.
“The upgrade will expand the fixed wireless footprint coverage by up to 50%, enabling 120,000 additional premises to access fixed wireless services instead of Sky Muster satellite services,” Fletcher said.
“This means more people can be served by NBN fixed wireless; it means higher speed services on the NBN fixed wireless network; and it means higher amounts of data can be used by households and business customers.”
The NBN investment will not only upgrade fixed wireless network speeds to 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 750,000 new premises but also expand a 250 Mbps speed to 85% of households, the minsters’ statement said.
NBN Sky Muster satellite users will also benefit as a number will be able to shift to the fixed wireless service, freeing up satellite network capacity. Pundits estimate that as a result of the greater network capacity, average monthly data allowances for standard plans can increase to 90GB within two years, once the fixed wireless upgrade is complete.
Regional communications minister Bridget McKenzie said she hoped the initiative would help to bridge the ‘digital divide’ between Australians living in more remote areas.
“The NBN is a critical part of our national infrastructure and economy, enabling employment, connecting families, and supporting business,” Senator McKenzie said.
The Coalition government, looking down the barrel of a looming federal election, has also flagged that more announcements responding to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review will be made in the following weeks.
Nationals MP Luke Hartsuyker chaired the review with committee members Sue Middleton, Kristy Sparrow, Professor Hugh Bradlow and Michael Cosgrave. Its Step Change in Demand report was presented to the federal government last December and tabled in parliament on 14 February 2022.
The upgrade will also further the government’s 2030 digital economy strategy. Finance minister Simon Birmingham said.
“The NBN has been there to support Australians throughout the pandemic.
“Our government will continue to make critical investments in the NBN that will enhance the internet experience for households and businesses right now and into the future,” he said.