The Albanese Labor government’s attempt to take credit for the Liberal Nationals’ decision, when in government, to deliver a $480 million upgrade of the NBN fixed wireless network demonstrates Labor’s willingness to deceive rural and regional Australians.

On 22 March 2022, the Coalition announced that $480 million would be included in the 2022-23 Federal Budget to significantly improve the quality of NBN Co’s fixed wireless and satellite networks.

As set out in the Coalition’s media release, up to one million premises in regional, rural, and remote Australia and in peri-urban areas will have access to higher speeds on NBN fixed wireless services or greater data limits on Sky Muster services.  The Coalition recognises the vital importance of investing in critical infrastructue such as the NBN to meet the demands of our growing digital economy.

In using the latest 4G and 5G wireless technology, this upgrade will extend the coverage range from a tower, and allow higher speed services to everyone served by the tower.  The total cost of this network upgrade is $750 million, with the remaining $270 million being contributed by NBN Co out of its own funds.

The upgrade will expand the fixed wireless footprint coverage by 50 per cent, enabling 120,000 additional premises to access fixed wireless services instead of Sky Muster satellite services.  The upgrade will mean NBN will offer new higher-speed services to the fixed wireless network: 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) to all 750,000 premises able to access the new, expanded coverage footpring, and a 250 Mbps service will be available to 85 per cent of premises.

As this investment will mean some NBN satellite users will move to fixed wireless, this will lead to few users relying on Sky Muster and an improved internet performance for those connecting to the NBN via satellite.   This will also deliver a major boost to approximately 50,000 regional businesses with an active fixed wireless service.

In announcing that this $480 million investment is the “first major milestone” delivered under Labor’s plan for rural and regional Australia, Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland, has blatantly misled Australians.  The only broadband plan Labor has for the NBN fixed wireless and satellite network is to adopt, under the cover of darkness, the Coalition’s plan.

Labor has a sorry history of showing negligible interest in communications infrastructure across rural and regional Australia.  When Labor was last in government, it connected just 51,000 users to the NBN and failed to fix a single mobile black spot.

This upgrade of the NBN fixed wireless networks represents an extraordinary amount of hard work and commitment by the Liberal Nationals when in government, including in commissioning the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review which was completed in December 2021 and tabled in the parliament on 14 February 2022.

29 June 2022