REGIONAL Communications Minister Fiona Nash has revealed the nbn network is two-thirds complete in regional Australia and overall is available to one in two Australians.
Senator Nash joined Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and nbn chief network engineer Peter Ryan to announce the milestones and face media questions yesterday in Sydney.
Senator Fifield said the nbn was now available to half of Australia which was ahead of schedule and ahead of budget.
He said the nbn is available to 5.7 million premises nationwide and 2.4m had taken up that opportunity already.
“By the middle of next year nbn will be three quarters complete and will be done and dusted by 2020,” he said.
“nbn as a project represents one of the biggest corporate turn arounds in Australia’s history.
“When we came into office in 2013 the previous government has spent the best part of $6 billion over two terms in government to connect just 51,000 premises.
“The nbn essentially was a failed project.
“As a result of our change in approach the nbn will be completed by 2020, which is six to eight years sooner than would have been the case under our predecessors and at $30 billion less cost.
“This is a good story.”
Senator Nash said the nbn was now two thirds built in rural, regional and remote areas and as the Regional Communications Minister she was also responsible for Sky Muster and the fixed wireless “and they’re both going really well”.
“We’re supercharging the data on Sky Muster and we’re super charging the speed on wireless,” she said.
“Fixed wireless has been a terrific success story.
“We’ve now seen 1700 towers built out on the ground across the country in regional areas.
“Over 180,000 people are now connected to fixed wireless - 56 towers going live just this month additionally and that will continue to grow.
“The satisfaction rating with the wireless has been tremendous and we’re also going to see the doubling of speeds on that fixed wireless capacity.”
Senator Nash said the Coalition inherited Sky Muster from Labor “but we’re now absolutely getting the best out of it” with around 80,000 people “hooked up”.
“As I’ve been traveling around to regional communities over the last period of time there have been some who have been concerned about the available level of data so the Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield and I worked very, very closely with nbn to come up with a solution to that,” she said.
“Congratulations to them, they’ve come up with some very innovative solutions to a very complex problem and we’ve now just very recently announced that peak data on Sky Muster will increase by 50 per cent and off-peak data will double.
“We’ve now got two satellites up there functioning.
“Under Labor one was going to be bobbing around just in case they might need backup.
“We’ve repurposed those so we’re getting the best out of those and now we’re going to see under a Coalition Government on Sky Muster around that 100 gigabytes for peak data compared to if it had been under Labor would have been only 35 and that is great news for people out in our regional communities.”
Senator Nash is also Regional Development Minister and revealed a recent announcement that the Royal Flying Doctor Service had formed a partnership with nbn.
She said 24 base stations were going to cover 300 remote clinics as part of the partnership and the Royal Flying Doctor Service had said it would be cost effective for them.
“That’s absolutely tremendous and the important thing to recognise is not just for the Royal Flying Doctor Service but people right across rural Australia, because of Sky Muster, are now getting access to broadband that they never ever had before,” she said.
“When it comes to regional Australia we are continuing to deliver for people right across this country.
“Whether it’s the $8.4 billion we’ve now seen under the Coalition going to build the inland rail – it’s taken a Coalition government to get on and build the inland rail.
“We’ve seen an extra $500 million for regional projects right across this country - $272 million for major regional projects, backing regional communities to think big and deliver big.
“They are just as ambitious as the cities and we need to keep backing the regions.
“We’ve now brought in the National Rural Health Commissioner which is going to drive an even better delivery of regional health services right across this country.”
Mr Ryan said access to fast broadband will be the platform that launches Australia into the digital future.
“It will define how we work, where we work and how we compete with the rest of the world and today we’re seeing great take up on the nbn with three out of every four homes and business taking up the nbn within 18 months of launch of the ability to connect to the nbn,” he said.
“Our team is on budget and ahead of schedule to complete the rollout by 2020 and we ask for everybody’s patience while we make the transition from the old network to the new network.”
Senator Fifield said a recently released economics report indicated that broadband in Australia under the nbn, in terms of price, was comparable to the ADSL network and higher data capacities and higher speeds were available.
Senator Nash said the Bureau of Communication and Arts Research paper on the trends and drivers in the affordability of communications services in Australia had found the nbn’s rollout was improving choice and reducing prices for regional Australians.
She said the research findings showed regional ADSL customers switching to fixed line and fixed wireless NBN services could access a similar level of service at lower prices and have access to a wider choice of plans, based on currently advertised prices.
“When it comes to telecommunications - these truly are exciting times to be living and working in regional and remote Australia,” she said.
In addressing criticism of his government’s handling of the network roll-out, Senator Fifield said the nbn experience, for a majority of people, “has been a good one”.
“Obviously with a project of this scale and magnitude when you’re connecting the best part of 11 million premises - when you’re endeavouring to do in six or eight years what it took the PMG and Telecom and Telstra the best part of 100 years to do - there will be on occasion be experiences of consumers that aren’t all that we would want them to be,” he said.
“This is a major project - there will obviously be a percentage of experiences in the rollout which aren’t perfect - but nbn is working day by day to improve that experience.”