Govt increases communications project spend across the country

Govt increases communications project spend across the country

More than 100 bespoke connectivity projects have been delivered across the country so far.

Credit: Dreamstime

The Australian government has revealed it has funded an additional 51 telco projects totalling $27 million in the latest tranche involving the Regional Connectivity Program.

Federal Regional Communications Minister Mark Coulton said the ‘place-based’ telecommunications infrastructure projects are targeted at providing benefits to local communities, such as the Tahune Airwalk near Geeveston in southern Tasmania.

Telco TasmaNet will be working directly with Tahune Airwalk as well as the Warra Ecosystem Observatory to upgrade the existing communications network.

Coulton added that the first tranche of the RCP had funded 81 projects, including five in Tasmania, bringing this up to 132 bespoke connectivity projects delivered across the country so far.

“The government has taken a collaborative approach in delivering the RCP,” he said.

“By engaging with the telecommunications industry and regional communities, we can make sure that the projects delivered under the RCP are tailored to the needs of each region and are supported by the community.”

Regional telco Field Solutions Group (FSG) was also awarded $4.1 million from the RCP which will be used towards building network infrastructure in places such as Bourke, Carrathool and Leeton in NSW, and Mareeba in Queensland.

FSG said in total, it has been successful in 90 per cent of its RCP applications, and has been awarded more than 25 per cent of the total funding pool for 16 new networks across Australia in five states.

Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts Paul Fletcher said these extra projects would help to provide improved broadband services and data, delivering fast, affordable and reliable connectivity for people in regional Australia.

“In addition to funding contributions from the Commonwealth and the applicant, many of these projects include co-investment from other levels of government, industry and other organisations to ensure communities get more bang for their buck,” Fletcher said.

The federal government’s total contribution of $117.4 million (including GST) towards Round 1 RCP projects will deliver total new investment of more than $232 million (GST inclusive) together with co-contributions from the funding recipients, state and territory governments and other third parties, including local governments, regional businesses and community development organisations. 

In addition, the Government will undertake another round of the RCP later in the year, with funding to be made available through a competitive grants process.

This comes as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) releases its bi-annual internet activity report for the period ending 31 December, which indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic continued to influence data download volumes as consumers continued to work from home in the second half of 2020.

Collectively, there was 8.6 million terabytes of data downloaded across retail broadband internet services in the three months ending 31 December 2020, with 90 per cent downloaded via National Broadband Network (NBN) services.

The total volume of data downloaded over the NBN increased from 4.9 million terabytes to 7.7 million terabytes in the 12 months to December 2020.

The report also found that NBN services of 100Mbps and above had grown significantly, to around 46 per cent from 539,000 to 785,000. About 60 per cent of reported NBN retail services were acquired on 50Mbps speed plans followed by 25Mbps (19 per cent); 12Mbps (11 per cent) and 100Mbps or greater, also at 11 per cent.

Total volume of residential broadband downloads increased 16 per cent compared to June 2020 period, with a 36 per cent increase on the year before. While the proportion of retail NBN services with no data limit continues to increase, jumping from 76 per cent to 80 per cent in 12 months.

On average, NBN consumers downloaded 355 gigabytes per user per month, with services on the 100Mbps or above downloading the most.

Total volume of data downloaded over non-NBN services continued to fall as more migrations to the NBN took shape, falling from 1.4 million terabytes to 0.8 million terabytes, while downloads over mobile services increased 23 per cent compared to 2019.

As of December 2020, there were 8.2 million retail broadband internet services, up from 7.9 million in the June 2020 quarter. Of these, 7.3 million were NBN services, while non-NBN fixed services continued to decline falling 35 per cent since June 2020. Of these, 60 per cent were DSL, 19 per cent fibre, 18 per cent HFC and three per cent fixed wireless.

“The downward trend in non-NBN services will continue as consumers migrate off legacy networks  and onto the NBN and other alternative networks,” ACCC said.

The ACCC report covers 13 retail service provides including Aussie Broadband, Australian Private Networks, Dodo, Harbour ISP, iiNet, IP Star Australia, MyRepublic, Primus, Singtel Optus, SkyMesh, Telstra, TPG Corp and TPG Telecom.

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