Govt announces first five cities to benefit from NBN wireless

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Federal Government today announced the first five towns and cities that will benefit from the next roll-out of the National Broadband Network.

Communities and areas around Ballarat, Darwin, Geraldton, Tamworth and Toowoomba will get a high-speed wireless service from mid-next year.

Fibre cables will run to fixed points in those communities from where a broadband service will get beamed at speeds of up to 12 megabits per second.

The former mayor of Geraldton says one of the main reasons his town was selected was to assist Australia’s bid for a giant telescope project.

David Weber reports.

DAVID WEBER: NBN chief technology officer, Gary McLaren says the service should be available from the middle of next year.

GARY MCLAREN: This will mean the rural and regional area around Geraldton will have a wireless service which what we call is a fixed wireless because it uses antennae that’s fixed to the home. We’ll be able to provide broadband services of 12 megabits per second and that will be available across that whole footprint. So the actual speed will be available for everyone in that footprint.

DAVID WEBER: The range of the wireless service will be 10 to 15 kilometres. Mr McLaren says the wholesale price will be around $24 a month.

He says he expects competition will keep prices down.

GARY MCLAREN: Today I’d imagine many people may not be able to have much choice in their broadband services. With the National Broadband Network we’ll have a range of service providers; we already have I think about 15 service providers signed up for our fibre network. We’ll be able to put plans into the market so that competition will make sure that people get their ability to choose and obviously they’ll chose the plans that they want.

DAVID WEBER: The former mayor and now one of the commissioners for the City of Greater Geraldton, Ian Carpenter says today’s announcement is the result of good lobbying.

Mr Carpenter says it’s also part of the campaign to secure the Square Kilometre Array Project.

IAN CARPENTER: The particular area which will be able to access the high speed wireless network is an industrial area and it wasn’t planned that the reticulation of fibre would go to that area. So we made representations to NBN Co. and convinced them that it was necessary in our area.

DAVID WEBER: So until today the focus was on homes in Geraldton?

IAN CARPENTER: Yes that’s quite right.

DAVID WEBER: What are the speeds like at the moment where businesses or homes are using the internet?

IAN CARPENTER: The speeds aren’t particularly good and the network does get a bit congested. There are certainly areas that have a very poor service from a speed point of view. I know I live personally right in the centre part of Geraldton and even though I can almost throw a stone at the telephone exchange, at times my service is pretty slow.

DAVID WEBER: Why should Geraldton be getting it over other communities in Australia?

IAN CARPENTER: Okay well one of the primary reasons that Geraldton was put high on the priority list is because the Square Kilometre Array Project, a fibre optic line from there comes down through Geraldton and it needed to connect into the NBN network to get all of that massive data down to Perth.

DAVID WEBER: That project is still in the proposal stage isn’t it; Australia is yet to win that?

IAN CARPENTER: Yes but you should remember that the Australian Square Kilometre Pathfinder project, which is almost complete, the Federal Government has spent something in the order of, I can’t remember the precise figure, but it’s certainly a bit over $100 million, to demonstrate to the international community that the capability is there in Australia.

DAVID WEBER: A final decision on the SKA Project is expected in the early part of next year.


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