Sir – The Labor Government has no plan to improve mobile coverage in regional Australia.
Evidence given at Tuesday night’s hearing of the Joint Committee on the NBN revealed that the Labor Government has not asked NBN Co to consider how its rollout of fixed wireless broadband towers could contribute to improved mobile phone coverage in regional Australia.
I directly asked NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley if NBN Co had done any projections as to the possibility of improving mobile phone coverage by the use of NBN Co’s wireless broadband towers. In response, he told the committee that NBN Co had not been asked by the Government to look at that issue.
In its response to the 2011-12 Regional Telecommunications Review, the Government ignored a recommendation to contribute to the expansion of the mobile phone network. Instead, Labor promised to “review the impact of the NBN fixed wireless towers on improving mobile coverage before considering the desirability of any further action”.
It is now clear that neither the Government nor NBN Co have any idea whether the NBN wireless rollout, which will cost taxpayers more than $1 billion, will have any impact on mobile phone coverage in the regions.
The sad reality is that the Labor Government has not spent one dollar on mobile communications, since being elected.
It is simply not good enough for the Government to stick its head in the sand until the wireless rollout is complete in 2015 and just wait to see if the situation improves. This problem requires action from the Government.
The last two Independent Regional Telecommunications Reviews have found that poor mobile phone coverage is the most prominent communications concern for people living and working in regional Australia.
Poor mobile coverage in regional Australia reduces public safety, hinders the recruitment and retention of skilled staff, and affects productivity.
Shadow Minister for Regional Communications