Govt funds telco resilience tech, responds to LEOSat report

Friday, 03 May, 2024

Govt funds telco resilience tech, responds to LEOSat report

Rural, regional, remote and First Nations communities are set to benefit from projects that deliver more resilient telecommunications networks during natural disasters, thanks to new funding delivered through the Australian Government’s Telecommunications Disaster Resilience Innovation (TDRI) program.

The TDRI program is part of the government’s Better Connectivity Plan, which is delivering significant investments to improve mobile and broadband connectivity in regional Australia. Through the program’s Innovation Round ($11.3 million) and the Power Resilience Round ($6.1 million), a total of $17.4 million will go towards 33 projects across a range of areas to develop and deploy innovative, new or emerging telecommunications technologies. Projects that will receive grant funding include:

  • Deploying hybrid back-up standalone power solutions that use combinations of renewable energy, fuel and batteries, including at nine sites across Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.
  • New portable generators to support telecommunications resilience around Australia.
  • Piloting of innovative uses of satellite communications, including for use as backup to terrestrial telecommunications.
  • Seven deployable telecommunications projects, including wide-area Wi-Fi networks and other communications technologies, to support connectivity around Australia.

Successful applicants were recommended for funding following rigorous assessment against the grant guidelines by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts. The government accepted all funding recommendations made by the department and is now seeking further options on how best to allocate the remaining program funds to support greater connectivity and resilience in rural, regional and remote Australia.

The funding announcement came just one week after the release of the government’s Low Earth Orbit Satellite (LEOSat) Working Group 2023 Chair’s Report, which identified telecommunications resilience as a priority area for reform.

Established in February 2023, the Working Group brings together industry, regulators and the government’s First Nations Digital Inclusion Advisory Group to guide future reforms to leverage the benefits of LEOSats in Australia. Some of the inaugural report’s recommendations for the government are as follows:

  • Explore the role of LEOSats to narrow the First Nations digital gap, and identify how best to remove barriers to providing prepaid satellite services to consumers.
  • Consider how new and emerging technology may be able to deliver a modern Universal Service Obligation.
  • Monitor developments with direct-to-handset LEOSat services, and consider their role in the continuity of service during disasters.

The report noted the potential for accelerated business and economic benefits that may flow from greater use of LEOSats, including in facilitating the Internet of Things (IoT) in rural, regional and remote communities. The government said it would consider all recommendations as it seeks to embrace the opportunities presented by LEOSat technology in coming years.

“I welcome the Working Group’s delivery of this report, which has identified six key areas of reform to guide future telecommunications priorities and regulatory reform,” said Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland.

“I thank the Working Group for the constructive manner in which they approached these important discussions — particularly in relation to closing the First Nations digital inclusion gap.

“The government will continue to work with industry and consumer groups to ensure the regulatory framework delivers the best outcomes for Australians, and I look forward to future meetings with the Working Group this year.”

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