Rural communities fear ‘data drought’ despite launch of NBN satellite Sky Muster

ABC News

Frustrated rural internet customers fear it could be 18 months before their substandard services are improved by the National Broadband Network (NBN Co) satellite Sky Muster.

The new half-a-billion-dollar satellite was launched this week, but due to months of testing will not be commercially available until mid-2016. Central Queensland farmer Kristy Sparrow said the bush cannot wait that long. Ms Sparrow has called on NBN Co to do more to improve speeds and lift data limits for those struggling with the congested interim satellite service (ISS), which Sky Muster will replace.

To address the congestion on the oversold system NBN Co introduced a fair use policy at the start of the year. All ISS users had their data plans cut.

Megan Munchenberg from Gregory Downs station in far north Queensland has seen the impact on her two children, who study by school of the air.

Alex Appleton doing distance education from schoolroom on Islay Plains Station, Alpha Queensland.

Alex Appleton doing distance education from schoolroom on Islay Plains Station, Alpha Queensland.

In March the station schoolroom’s 100 gigabyte plan was halved to 50 gigabytes, then three months later reduced to 45 gigabytes.

“Each child by standard has been recommended that they need 20 gigabytes month each. Currently we have 20 gigabytes for five children,” she said.

Despite rationing, the schoolroom cannot make it through the month, and their internet is “shaped”, or drastically slowed. “It’s pretty much just turn the computer off and walk away because the ability to do anything is impossible,” Ms Munchenberg said.

NBN Co’s general manager for fixed wireless and satellite, Gavin Williams, said he does not like to hear stories of hardship caused by the ISS.

“It’s incredibly humbling when you hear the real world impacts of individuals in the bush just trying to do things that people in the city just take for granted,” he said.

“When you can’t do a banking transaction because it times out, that a kid has to get up at 5:00am to do a lesson, they’re heartbreaking stories.”

Ms Sparrow said there is an information drought about the new long-term satellite service (LSS) and called on NBN Co to provide more information.

“How much are these families going to be able to access? What data limits? What costs? How long is it going to take to service every family?” she said.

“It’s a digital world and there’s a digital divide. The interim satellite at least deserves to be fixed until then.”

Read more.

Bush telecommunications needs help with more reforms

The Australian, 3 September 2015.

Vodafone Australia chief Inaki Berroeta.

Vodafone Australia chief Inaki Berroeta.

Recently I drove to Armidale in country NSW to open a new ­Vodafone retail store with the local federal MP and Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce. During the drive I had cause to reflect on the potential for improved mobile telecommunications in regional Australia.

Vodafone will soon be building more than 18 mobile base stations in the region around Armidale, dramatically improving our ­mobile coverage by an extra 2000sq km. This will deliver better mobile coverage and more employment opportunities in the community while giving more choice and competition to local consumers and businesses.

This would not have been possible without the government’s mobile black spot program and the support of the NSW government, which fund not only improvements in mobile coverage but also competition in regional and remote areas where it is severely lacking. The combination of subsidised construction of mobile stations with a requirement on industry to work together to share infrastructure is a major step forward for which both governments deserve significant credit.

Our geography and low population density means there are major challenges in ensuring regional and remote Australians can benefit from a choice of fixed and mobile telco providers.

Many Australian taxpayers would be surprised to learn that over the past decade Telstra has received more than one billion of their dollars to maintain and ­extend its network. There would be a huge outcry if a major supermarket chain received such substantial amounts of taxpayer funds to maintain its market dominance, but such a huge handout to the incumbent telco has gone largely unquestioned.

Further, Telstra charges monopoly prices for other operators to access its fixed transmission links, many of which were built when Telstra was a government-owned monopoly. To build mobile base stations, carriers need to connect to these fixed transmission links to take the voice and data traffic to the rest of the world. But there are some shoots of green; the policy environment is changing. The NBN rollout and the mobile black spot program are solutions

Australia will not achieve its potential, or lift its long-term economic and social wellbeing to its highest level without access to modern telecommunications services at affordable prices.

These are exciting opportunities and we look forward to ­continuing to work with government, industry and consumers to maximise the benefits of more competition and choice in telecommunications for regional and remote Australia.

Inaki Berroeta is the chief executive of Vodafone Australia.

View the full article here.

GM of Industry Strategy & Public Policy at Vodafone Hutchison Australia to present at Australian Regional Development Conference

Matthew Lobb, General Manager, Industry Strategy & Public Policy at Vodafone Hutchison Australia will present at the Australian Regional Development Conference will be held at the Commercial Club Albury on the 26– 27 August 2015 .

The conference is an initiative of the Association for Sustainability in Business Inc., a non-Government ‘not-for-profit’ organisation.

Speaker Introduction: Matthew Lobb has overall responsibility for Vodafone’s government and stakeholder relations, regulatory affairs and public policy reform agenda. A key focus of this work is to advocate the need for a level competitive playing field in Australian telecommunications that fosters innovation and drives improvements to customer service.

Matthew joined Vodafone in 2011 after working as General Manager for Industry Engagement at NBN Co from 2009. Prior to this Matthew had an eight year stint in Telstra and held a range of roles including Director, Telstra Consumer Pricing, Group Manager, Commercial Development and Group Regulatory Manager, Telstra Wholesale.

Matthew also has extensive experience within Government having worked as an advisor to the Minister for Transport and Roads in NSW and to the Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs in the Federal Government.

Matthew is a Rhodes Scholar and has Honours degrees in Economics and in Law from the Australian National University, a MA from Oxford University and a MSc (International Relations) from the London School of Economics.

Presentation Title: Utilising the NBN to deliver improved regional mobile telecommunications coverage and choice

Overview:

Regional consumers are demanding mobile coverage and 83 percent of regional consumers agree that being able to choose their mobile provider is important.

Overcoming the roadblocks to mobile competition in regional areas will ensure consumers and businesses receive more coverage, better value, better service, choice and innovation.

Australia’s telecommunications market has undergone a profound change in the last 15 years and Australian consumers have become some of the most technologically savvy in the world. These changes and the rapid uptake of new technology have fundamentally changed our lives and benefited our economy.

In many places in regional Australia the economy and consumers are being denied access to reliable mobile phone coverage and the benefits that flow from mobility. The Australian telecommunications market is not driving sufficient investment in regional mobile infrastructure to deliver the benefits of the mobility to all Australians. Incentivising investment and removing the roadblocks to coverage expansion is a policy challenge that must be overcome.

In many areas of Australia it is only economically viable to build one set of mobile infrastructure. The best approach to deliver improved mobile coverage and increase consumer choice is for Government to facilitate telecommunications industry collaboration that reduces costs by better sharing infrastructure.

This includes leveraging the substantial investments that the NBN is undertaking in regional Australia. There are also a range of other policy levers that can be used to encourage infrastructure sharing. This includes better utilisation of the $300m per annum Universal Service Obligation payments that are currently not directed to mobile infrastructure.

The needs of mobile networks are technically similar to other uses of the NBN. In regional areas the NBN can reduce the costs of building mobile networks to expand coverage by utilising the NBN’s fixed-line network for ‘access backhaul’ services. NBN’s fixed-wireless network which is currently being built can also provide a foundation for the expansion of mobile coverage across Australia.

To view and/or download the Australian Regional Development Conference program, please click here.