Ministers for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Joint Release with The Hon. Paul Fletcher MP: Investing in Australia's communications infrastructure

13 May 2014

The Government will invest $100.0 million to address mobile blackspots in outer metropolitan, regional and remote Australia and increases in NBN Co equity payments over the forward estimates will also be implemented.

NBN equity injections

The Budget provides $20.9 billion in equity funding to NBN Co over the period 2014–15 to 2017–18. This amount is in addition to $5.2 billion in equity provided in previous financial years from 2008–09 to 2012–13 and $3.4 billion expected to be provided in 2013–14.

The Government's investment is capped at $29.5 billion, with the balance of the project to be funded by the private sector.

The previous Labor government failed to meet its promises in relation to the NBN. The Government will complete the project sooner and at a lower cost.

The Strategic Review released in December 2013 identified that completing the NBN under Labor's plan would cost $72.6 billion ($28.5 billion more than we were told), increase prices for consumers by up to 80 per cent and not be complete until 2024. We face a significant task in getting the NBN back on track.

The Government has agreed that the NBN should be completed using a multi-technology mix. This will match the right technology to the right location and make use of existing networks where possible to deliver very fast broadband.

This new approach to NBN implementation will save $31.6 billion in funding costs, get the NBN finished four years sooner and enable nine out of ten Australians in the fixed-line footprint to get access to download speeds of 50 megabits per second or more by 2019.

Mobile Black Spot Programme

The Government will also invest $100.0 million in telecommunications infrastructure to improve mobile coverage in outer metropolitan, regional and remote Australia.

The Mobile Black Spot Programme will enhance public safety in these communities and boost their productivity.

In addition to improving coverage of high quality terrestrial mobile voice and wireless broadband services in regional areas, the programme also aims to stimulate competition in mobile communications.

The programme will improve mobile coverage along major transport routes, in small communities and in locations prone to experiencing natural disasters, as well as addressing unique mobile coverage problems.

This investment is expected to generate additional funding from industry, government (both state and local) and communities, and provide around 250-300 new or upgraded mobile base stations across Australia, depending on the level of co-contributions attracted (both cash and in-kind). Already the Victorian Government has committed $40.0 million to address mobile black spots and to deliver Wi-Fi on selected trains in Victoria.

The approach will also seek to leverage the NBN build to better support mobile communications —for example, by seeking opportunities for towers in the NBN fixed wireless network to be used for colocation by mobile network operators to deliver mobile wireless services in the same location.

Inadequate mobile phone coverage remains a significant issue for Australians living, working and travelling in regional areas of the country.

The 2011–12 Regional Telecommunications Review identified a lack of adequate mobile voice and broadband coverage as the issue of greatest concern to regional communities.

The Government expects to commence a competitive selection process in the second half of this year, with a view to announcing the locations which have been selected for funding in the first half of 2015. The Government anticipates that the first base stations funded under this programme will begin to roll out in the second half of 2015.

Media enquiries:
David Bold, Office of Malcolm Turnbull MP, 0427 784 451
Luke Coleman, Office of Paul Fletcher MP, 0414 728 720

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