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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_28148" align="alignnone" width="300"] A pair of CubeSats, with the Earth’s limb in the background, is seen moments after being ejected from a small satellite deployer outside of the space station’s Kibo lab module in May 2017. Photo: NASA.[/caption]

Nick Ellis

UNSW Canberra and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will develop three Cubesats to be used for maritime surveillance, with the first lifting off in early 2018.

UNSW Canberra has signed a $9.96 million contract with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to develop new ways to enhance Australia’s future Defence space capability.

Engineers and scientists from UNSW Canberra Space will design and build three Cubesat spacecraft for two space missions, to be launched into Low Earth Orbit.

Cubesats are miniaturised satellites with a standardised form that fits into ‘piggy-back’ dispensers on most commercial rocket launch services

They are made up of units that are 10 centimetres cubed, use a variety of off-the-shelf and bespoke electronic components and sensors. They are economical, can be applied to a wide array of space-based purposes (particularly for space research, Earth observations and communications), and can be rapidly designed and built to high standards.

3 unit (3U) Cubesats are roughly the size of a loaf of bread and weigh approximately 4kg. 6 unit (6U) Cubesats are twice the size as 3U.

Director of UNSW Canberra Space, Professor Russell Boyce says the Cubesats will be used for maritime surveillance.

"These spacecraft are able to gather remote sensing information with radios and cameras, and are the sort of innovative space capability that can help meet many ground-based needs in ways that make sense for Australia,” Professor Boyce said.

“Because they have re-programmable software defined radios on board, we can change their purpose on the fly during the mission, which greatly improves the spacecraft’s functional capabilities for multiple use by Defence."

The first will lift-off in early 2018, followed by the second in 2019.

The space missions will also deliver research and educational outcomes for Defence and civilian students studying engineering at UNSW Canberra.

UNSW Canberra Rector, Professor Michael Frater, said the space program is built on the university’s strengths in satellite and sensor R&D.

“UNSW Canberra has invested significantly to build a very large world class team of space scientists and engineers. With the announcement this week of a national space agency, we are very excited about the future of space in Australia. We look forward to having a leading role in the space industry, both through education and research.”

 
                    [post_title] => RAAF, UNSW to cooperate in space
                    [post_excerpt] => UNSW Canberra and the RAAF will develop three Cubesats for maritime surveillance.
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                    [post_content] => 

The Central Western Queensland Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD) in July produced the Smart Central Western Queensland: A Digitally Enabled Community Strategic Plan. As part of that plan, the councils proposed an  Outback Telegraph, which involves the mayors of seven Central West Queensland councils, the RAPAD members. Outback Telegraph proposes to switch on public Wi-Fi in these remote areas.

The plan is to roll-out free Wi-Fi by this group of councils - covering one-fifth of the state - to boost visitor numbers and business through technology.

The first stage of the Outback Telegraph has been switched on by Winton Shire Council, with the smart tourism pilot a first for Queensland. When the network gets up and running it will be – in total council area – the biggest single public Wi-Fi network in Australia.

The Queensland Government contributed $15,000 to jumpstart the pilot, and Winton Shire Council is also pitching in. RAPAD will fund the extension of the Outback Telegraph smart tourism platform to all key centres in the region, reaching some of the most remote communities in the state.

Queensland Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch said: “This is about driving opportunities and using the power of digital connectivity to tell the world about outback Queensland.

“Providing more opportunities to go online and do research on-the-go and share pictures and stories will be good for tourists and trade in small rural towns. I congratulate Winton Shire Council for taking the ground-breaking steps to provide free public Wi-Fi in the outback, and government officers in Rockhampton and Brisbane who worked with councils to make it happen.”

RAPAD board member and Mayor of Barcoo Shire Council, Bruce Scott said the next stage of the regional Wi-Fi network will add more locations, including Longreach, Barcaldine and Windorah.

“A single sign-on for the Central West means visitors won’t have to re-enter their details as they move around, making it much more convenient to stay connected during their travels,” he said.

“This is the first step towards making the Central West a smart region, where technology supports important local industries like tourism, and makes our communities better connected and more liveable.”

Winton Mayor Cr Butch Lenton acknowledged the pulling power of public Wi-Fi.

“It will be a magnet to people with mobile devices who are a long way from their family and friends and travelling around the countryside,” he said.

“Connectivity is essential to running businesses in rural Queensland, and for travellers, and I’m proud our council is pioneering a terrific project that is crossing new boundaries.”

Visitors will be able to connect to the network through the Outback Telegraph app, which will be available from Google and Apple in coming days. The mobile app can also interact with smart beacons placed around town, allowing the user to access additional information about local businesses, receive a coupon or special offer; and guide them on discovery walks.

Mayor Lenton said Winton Shire Council is collecting tourism statistics from the free Wi-Fi to show how visitors are moving through the region and where they are and are not stopping.

“We can build stronger businesses with this data. Winton has a rich history that includes the Great Shearers’ Strike, Banjo Patterson’s Waltzing Matilda, Qantas, and a dinosaur stampede, and also opal fields and a wide variety of animals and bird life in the area," he said.

“Free Wi-Fi can help us share our stories, history and visitor experiences on social channels to entice more tourists and encourage them to stay longer once they’re here,” he said.

The Outback Telegraph will be showcased at this week’s Bush Councils Convention in Charters Towers, with RAPAD also hoping to hold an upcoming ‘hacking’ event for the Central West to come up with ideas leveraging the regional Wi-Fi, app and beacons.
                    [post_title] => RAPAD to deliver WiFi to outback councils
                    [post_excerpt] => The Outback Telegraph proposes to switch on public Wi-Fi in many of Queensland's remote areas.
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                    [post_content] => Black Mountain Telecom Tower - 4

The Government has published the submissions to its review into tthe structure and operationselco and media regulator the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Unsurprisingly, the big three telcos all want less regulation.

The review was announced in June by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. He said then the review was necessary to ensure the ACMA could “effectively deal with challenges arising from a rapidly changing communications sector.”

The ACMA said it welcomed the review, acknowledging that the commercial and technological environment today is very different from when the ACMA was formed almost exactly ten years ago from the merger of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Communications Authority on 1 July 2005.

The Department of Communications has now made public the 40 submissions to the review. Unsurprisingly, Australia’s three major telcos all argue for a reduction in the ACMA’s powers and increased self-regulation, arguing that many of the ACMA’s functions should be transferred to industry.

All submissions can be found here.

The ACMA’s own submission focuses on its achievements, and argues that no major changes need to be made to its powers, beyond updating them to take changing technology into account.

“The ACMA considers that most of the existing communications and media public policy objectives are enduring and will remain very relevant in a future communications environment. However, the method for achieving these desirable policy outcomes is likely to require revision to support future technology and service developments as well as addressing the changing risk characteristics of the global, digital communications environment.”

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone all say the ACMA’s role should be reduced.

Telstra:

“The current regime falls short of best practice and can be improved by making greater use of coregulation and self-regulation options. In co-regulation the regulator still has a role (typically enforcing the requirements) while in self-regulation the requirements are either voluntary or subject to consequences under an industry compliance framework.

“Compared to ‘black-letter’ regulatory solutions administered by regulators, Telstra considers these options can often solve problems and deliver policy outcomes more efficiently as well as making the regulation more flexible and fit-for-purpose. They offer the opportunity for at least some of the functions currently undertaken by the ACMA to be transferred to industry over time, subject to suitable compliance arrangements being established.”

Optus:

“In common with a number of other infrastructure based industries the need for specific regulation of the telecommunications market derives from the desire to introduce competition to a market that was historically served by a government owned monopoly supplier.

“However, unlike some of these other industries regulation was seen as a transitional step that would ultimately fall away. The impact of technological change and the multi-product nature of the industry provide greater prospects for the market or segments of the market to transition to a competitive basis where reliance could be placed on the economy wide competition rules.

“Optus believes that an overriding objective of any regulatory framework for telecommunications should be to facilitate the transition to a competitive sector where the need for specific regulation falls away.”

Vodafone:

“The current overlap in responsibilities between the ACMA, the ACCC, the TIO and the Government itself needs to be addressed. The ACMA also needs to have clarity and certainty about the scope and purpose of its mandate.”

Submissions closed on 10 August, and the Department was been directed to report to Mr Turnbull by the end of the year.
                    [post_title] => Big telcos challenge government oversight
                    [post_excerpt] => Telstra, Optus and Vodafone call for self-regulation
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_19840" align="alignnone" width="300"]Dirty New suburbs are getting new fees for the NBN.[/caption]

 

Residential property developers have angrily attacked the introduction of new wiring-in charges to connect to the National Broadband Network on greenfields sites, claiming the move unfairly slugs new home owners while established dwellings get-off free.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) claims that the new charges, which impose a new $900 fee for connection and infrastructure charges, will drive-up the cost of new housing and hit families and new home owners on the fringe of cities.

“The Government’s plan will add another $900 in connection and infrastructure charges, and a potentially unlimited amount in additional backhaul charges, which could amount to several thousands of dollars per home,” said UDIA National President Cameron Shephard.

“[The] UDIA has argued that the Government forcing new home buyers to pay for the construction of backhaul would not only make new housing more expensive, but would be highly inequitable, as backhaul is trunk infrastructure utilised by the wider community”.

But Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the new fees are necessary to address concerns that previous arrangements unduly tilted the playing field against private infrastructure providers who had to compete against [NBN], which provided infrastructure at no charge to developers.

According to the Communications Minister, if the NBN charges for infrastructure, alternative providers will have both the ability and incentive to compete with NBN, putting downward pressure on costs and encouraging innovation.

But developers -- who have previously complained about the high cost of private providers trenching in communications s cables --are not buying the better competition pitch. Rather, they see it as another cost shift to customers and yet more red tape that has been added to the existing burden of taxes and charges that drive-up the price of new dwellings.

“The proposal is particularly disappointing given the Government’s previous commitment to reduce taxes, charges, and red tape, and take pressure off Australian households,” Mr Shephard said.

The federal Opposition has also slammed the new charges, savaging it as the imposition of a new tax that double-dipped taxpayers.

“The NBN tax is unfair,” said Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare.

“It means that if you buy an existing home you don't have to pay anything extra for the NBN. Your taxes pay for it. But if you buy a new home, you have to pay for it twice.”

Mr Clare said that Broadband wan now an essential utility “like electricity or water.”

“Australian families need it, Australian businesses rely on it and Australian students can’t live without it.”
                    [post_title] => New NBN tax slammed by urban developers
                    [post_excerpt] => Turnbull argues competition on prices needed.
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                    [post_date] => 2015-03-19 22:07:38
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2015-03-19 11:07:38
                    [post_content] => slide-fixed-networks

Plucky Australian telecommunications carrier Vertel has muscled-up its push into regional areas where Telstra and other telephony providers’ services are lacking, announcing the rollout of a new $10 million national Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) network aimed squarely at state and local governments.

The 40-year-old veteran of two way and push-to-talk radio systems on Thursday officially launched the open standard Tier III trunked radio network that the company is confident will appeal to public sector clients that sorely need digital data services separate to the existing 3G and 4G mobile networks that also carry public traffic.

Once regarded as analogue era technology, two way radio is enjoying a resurgence of popularity  as it switches over to digital and internet protocol ‘packet enabled’ systems that use lower frequency bands and can provide wider area coverage than mobile phone cells.

Vertel says it’s investing $10 million into new infrastructure investment over the next three years to get services into places the company’s managing director Andrew Findlay says are “under serviced by major telcos.”

A big part of the sell is guaranteeing redundancy for critical services, like health, emergency management authorities and education providers that necessarily need to have secondary communications systems in the event of adverse weather events or natural disasters like fires.

One of Vertel’s points of difference from mainstream carriers is that it uses carrier grade microwave transmission to trunk its network making it more resilient because there are far fewer poles and wires to wash away or be burned down.

The company says that after designing and testing this network for the past year it had selected Christchurch New Zealand based Tait Communications as a key equipment provider to help deliver the new network.

(Having generated a near cult following in radio spectrum circles, Tait has remained in business and impervious to take-overs thanks to the company’s restructure as a charitable trust by its late founder Sir Angus Tait, who maintained a dogged philosophy of reinvesting almost all its profits back into research and development with a major beneficiary being electronics and ICT research at the University of Canterbury.)

Mr Findlay said it was “when things go black” that communications users realised what was not there.

Most state governments have for decades operated their own dedicated Government Radio Networks to service everything from police and ambulances to public transport and other fleet users.

However even with the proliferation of mobile broadband services from consumer-based telcos snapping away at the GRN market, many critical response and infrastructure services have expressed growing concerns that they could be exposed to congestion and outages during periods of peak or extreme demand if they are forced to rely solely on public networks.

Vertel believes that it’s found a sustainable niche upgrading previously analogue networks in regional areas to new DMR technology that can not only support ‘push-to-talk’ functionality but also carry digital services data like location services and SCADA- services that are the mainstay of industrial communications for critical infrastructure like water and power as well as other industrial applications.

“We really want to target councils as an anchor customer,” Mr Findlay said.

He stressed that existing radio users did not have to replace their existing fleets because multi-mode radios worked across both digital and analogue networks. This meant that migration over to digital radio could be done gradually rather than in one disruptive hit.

In the first phase of Vertel’s rollout, the new DMR Tier III will support Newcastle, Wollongong Sydney and surrounding areas.

DMR Tier lll Capabilities according to Vertel:

•    SMS and email messaging
•    Greater voice clarity
•    Telephone interconnectivity
•    Data encryption
•    Easy migration and scalability
•    GPS location and tracking
•    Lone working and man down alarms
•    Data transfer
•    Telemetry functionality
•    Job ticketing and messaging
•    Event and voice recording
                    [post_title] => Radio resurgence dials into Telstra’s badlands
                    [post_excerpt] => Digital radio providers are sending a strong signal to critical infrastructure providers where Telstra's signal is weak.
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                    [post_date] => 2014-12-09 12:13:36
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                    [post_content] => 3D Shackled Debt

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) are so concerned about the dodgy practices of debt collectors the regulators have launched an investigation into how the industry works.

The ACCC said it intended to examine how the industry operated, “in particular, the business models adapted in the industry and the influence this may have on activities that take place when collecting debts from consumers”. The Commission is expected to report its research findings in mid-2015.

The debt collection and receivables markets are regarded as an important indicator of overall consumer and business financial health as spikes in collection actions can indicate the emergence of financial stress among both consumers and merchants.

However the quality of debt sent through to collection agencies has also sometimes raised concerns, especially in the telecommunications sector where bans on selling 'disputed debt' -- or bills that a customer contests as invalid or wrong -- have been imposed by regulators concerned about the legitimacy of some billing practices.

An ACCC spokesperson said that although there had not been a significant spike in the number of complaints about debt collection activities, the Commission continued to receive complaints from debtors.

"It is of concern to the ACCC that one-third of complaints relate to allegations of harassment and coercion by collectors and creditors and the next type of most prominent complaint is about misleading and deceptive conduct," the spokesperson said.

Now, with Christmas just around the corner, the ACCC and ASIC have just launched a guide for people in trouble with debt about how to deal with debt collectors and creditors. The very fact the two regulators feel the need to spell out the rules of engagement indicates that there is clear room for improvement.

The guide, ‘Dealing With Debt Collectors’, includes advice on what sort of behaviour by debt collectors is unacceptable, what to do if a debt collector contacts you, managing repayments, disputing a debt and people’s rights and responsibilities if they owe money.

For example, debt collectors cannot use or threaten physical force, shout or verbally abuse you or stay on your property after you have asked them to leave, unless they have a court order.

Debt collectors are also forbidden to loiter near your house, embarrass or distress you in front of somebody else or tell other people  about your debt – including your children – or make false statements about what will happen in the debt isn’t paid or what they intend to do (e.g. repossess your car).

ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said that the Commission and ASIC continued to receive complaints about the behaviour of some debt collectors and creditors.

“It is important for consumers to be aware of their rights when dealing with debt collectors and to know how to complain,” Ms Rickard said.

“Where creditors or collectors disregard consumer protection laws and the rights of consumers, we will consider appropriate enforcement action against them.”

Debt collection clearly represents a growing headache for the Commission. In July this year it published revised guidelines for creditors and debt collectors on how to behave when they pursued people to pay up.

There have been several high profile cases of debt collection companies or creditors behaving badly over the past few years.

One of the worst involved a telco, Excite Mobile Pty Ltd, whose outrageous behaviour included telling people living in remote indigenous communities that a mobile service was available in their homes when it wasn’t; threatening to repossess all of a debtor's assets, including their children’s toys; and setting up a fictional independent complaints handling organisation and a fake debt collector to coerce people into paying their debts. The company was slugged $455,000 and its directors disqualified.

Another landmark case brought by ASIC against debt collector Accounts  Control Management Services in 2012 found that the company falsely threatened people with imminent legal action and encouraged collection officers to warn debtors that they would be served court documents by sheriff’s officers and encouraged collection officers and ordered them to ‘stress that they are dressed like police officers and arrive in a marked car’.
                    [post_title] => Regulators investigate debt collection industry
                    [post_excerpt] => Consumers warned about dodgy debt collectors.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_16584" align="alignnone" width="614"]Mobile Phone Tower Plenty of political static on the line over regional mobile coverage...[/caption]

 

The federal government’s $100 million Mobile Black Spot Programme will leave many communities stranded with bad mobile coverage or none at all, the federal Opposition claims.

Labor’s Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, said that only 1,000 of the 6,000 mobile black spots nominated by residents, councillors, community leaders and State government during eight months of public consultation would be covered by the 250-300 new base stations slated to be built.

Ms Rowland said that a Department of Communication representative provided the figures at a recent Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) conference.

But the federal government has said that none of 6,000 black spot reports had been verified with telephone companies or checked against their coverage maps. The government maintains that multiple black spots could be covered by one new base station.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are all expected to bid in the tendering process to build or upgrade base stations around Australia in the coming weeks.

Ms Rowland, who was a senior lawyer specialising in competition and regulation in telecommunications, media and technology before she became an MP, said a close eye should be kept on the tendering process.

“It is crucial that this program is competitively neutral, does not favour a single carrier and that it achieves maximum public benefit,” Ms Rowland said.

“Mobile coverage in rural and regional areas is a significant issue. This is why all mobile carriers have significant investments in this space.”

But she said that the greatest need was where there was no incentive for the market to invest.

The government has maintained that tenders will be weighted so that telcos do not just select the most populous and profitable areas in which to build a new base station. For example, companies receive extra points in the tendering process if they can show they cover a high number of kilometres of highway or a large number of square kilometres.

Local councils, in particular, are wrestling with their role in the program. While all appreciate the importance of improving mobile coverage for their communities, many remote or rural councils fear that the matched funding the government is insisting on from local councils, state governments and industry will be difficult to deliver. Contributions can be cash or in-kind.

Ms Rowland said remote and rural councils were already struggling to make ends meet and some Northern Territory councils did not have tenure over their land, excluding this as an in-kind contribution.

“Many local councils and shires in are a perilous financial state which has been exacerbated by the Abbott Government’s $1 billion cuts to their financial assistance grants,” Ms Rowland said.

“Local government continues to be plagued by cost-shifting and revenue constraints, such in NSW which is subject to rate pegging.  For country areas, the effect is even more pronounced: councils must budget for both maintenance and depreciation for local infrastructure such as roads and bridges.”

Ms Rowland has met with some rural and regional councils about their contributions to the scheme but she said they were unable to quantify their financial capacity to participate until sites were elected and costings finalised.

She said some state governments were probably in a better position to take advantage of the program.  Western Australia has a specific Regional Mobile Communications Project of $80 million to address infrastructure and black spots under its Royalties for Regions scheme while Victoria will allocate $40 million to improving black spot coverage.

Teresa Corbin, CEO of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), said the $100 million was “a drop in the ocean” compared to what was needed, but still applauded the government’s initiative.

“To a certain extent metropolitan issues have been alleviated because of the investment in the network. But as far back as I can remember, we’ve had problems in relation to coverage in regional and remote areas because telcos view them as unprofitable areas so this is why it’s important to have government incentives,” Ms Corbin said.

“Whoever is in government is going to have to allow for some kind of mobile phone coverage program in rural and regional areas. It’s a question of how to use the few dollars available. We would prioritise the areas that are the least (perceived) commercially viable for the telcos.”

Although the ACCAN is not a complaints body, Ms Corbin said many of the network’s members, such as the Country Women’s Association, the Isolated Children’s and Parents’ Group and NSW Farmers had provided feedback about poor mobile reception in their area.

ACCAN will shortly release a paper-based community kit, which will also be downloadable, to help individuals, governments and communities build a business case to persuade telcos to build a new base station in their area. This should be released before the tendering process begins.

“The reality is that the telcos are very city-based and they don’t understand what pent-up demand might be in these areas but local government and communities do,” Ms Corbin said.

“For example, the number of tourists in an area, which highways truckies are using and the demand for geo-based services from agriculture.”

The community kit will include telco contact details and examples of the business cases and models that have succeeded in the past.
                    [post_title] => Mobile Black Spots fix gets poor reception from Labor
                    [post_excerpt] => New base stations won’t eliminate poor mobile coverage.
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                    [post_content] => Mobile Phone Tower

Local councils have welcomed the chance to nominate mobile coverage black spots under the federal government’s Mobile Coverage Programme, but strongly cautioned Canberra not to sideline commercially unviable remote communities nor expect local governments to stump up cash for capital works.

The mobile voice and broadband coverage program has two parts: the $80 million Mobile Network Expansion Project, which targets areas around transport routes, small communities and places prone to natural disasters and a further $20 million under the Mobile Black Spots Project to improve mobile coverage in areas with specific problems, such as high  demand during holidays.

The locations of the new base station towers and optical fibre backhaul will be chosen using assessment criteria which include: value for money for the Commonwealth; the level of new mobile coverage; the expansion of existing coverage; the number of mobile network operators (MNOs) per bid and the amount of co-contributions by other levels of government.

The federal government will also take into account more than 4,000 submissions received from individuals, organisations, MPs and councils, highlighting where there is little or no mobile coverage.

The deadline for submissions is Friday this week.

But Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) chief executive Andrew Beresford-Wylie has cautioned that whole communities will remain isolated if commercial viability is the program’s main driver.

“For remote areas currently without coverage, high entry costs have made it unviable for carriers to invest. Carriers will invest in areas with the largest number of subscribers,” Mr Beresford-Wylie said.

“The challenge is how to deliver services under the Mobile Coverage Programme, within the limited funding available, to those regional communities where it would otherwise be non-commercial and uneconomic for carriers to do so (otherwise it) may bypass many of these non-commercial communities.”

ALGA wants the order of merit list of proposed base stations to be determined in consultation with local governments, so those areas most in need benefit from the program.

A Communications Department spokesman said the program was expected to provide around 250 to 300 new or upgraded mobile base stations in areas where mobile services were currently unviable for commercial operators.

Satellite mobile phones, which could be used anywhere in Australia from a number of service providers, remained an “effective alternative” for those who missed out under the scheme, he added.

Currently three national MNOs - Optus, Vodafone and Hutchison Australia - collectively claim to cover 99 per cent of Australia’s population but this equates to only around one-quarter of the country’s landmass.

While cautiously optimistic about the program, councils have other concerns: chiefly that they will be asked to dip into their pockets by federal government.

The federal government will only seek expressions of interest (EOIs) from local councils and communities for the Mobile Black Spots Program once the first Mobile Network Expansion locations are announced.

A Communications Department discussion paper put out in December 2013 ominously says: “all EOIs submitted at this stage must include a commitment to provide a co-contribution towards the proposed station … for example by the local government, significant local businesses, large community groups or the state or territory government”.

Co-contributions can be cash or in-kind, for example site access or road and power installation. The paper says the Commonwealth will fund ``some of the costs’’ but this will vary between sites.

Mr Beresford-Wylie said remote councils were ``extremely keen’’ to improve limited coverage and to secure coverage where there was none but the co-contributions required could dash their hopes.

“Rural and remote councils are generally the least capable financially of providing co-contributions for projects,’’ he said.

“These communities are currently without mobile service because of the prohibitive cost of deploying the service and are financially struggling themselves.”

Some Northern Territory Councils, in addition to being cash-strapped, could not offer land as a co-contribution because they did not have tenure over it.

But a Department of Communications spokesman said co-contributions from state/territory governments, local councils and other third parties were being sought to maximise the additional coverage achieved by the program.

“The Government’s $100 million investment is expected to generate at least matching funding from industry, state and local governments and communities,” he said.

In-kind contributions were welcomed from local councils, for example leasehold tenure for a base station site at little or no cost, help with civil works or access to council-owned infrastructure.

The Local Government Association of Queensland has suggested that one solution to addressing the commercial unviability of some areas could be to aggregate sites by state or region so that commercially viable areas could cross-subsidise smaller, less economically attractive, sites.

Three delivery options are being discussed under the program: the first where a single mobile network operator or a consortia of MNOs builds and contributes ``significantly’’ to the cost of building base stations; the second where multiple MNOs bid for a portion of the $80 million funding; or the third option where one or more companies build, own and operate a base station or a group of base stations and allow a number of MNOs to install their network equipment.

Tendering is expected to be later this year and the locations announced in the first half of 2015.
                    [post_title] =>  Councils dial-up heat over mobile blackspots funding
                    [post_excerpt] => Warning not to sideline remote communities

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By Julian Bajkowski

The Coalition has gambled large on reviving Australia’s ageing copper telecommunications network to supply broadband download speeds of between 25 megabits per second and 100 megabits per second to deliver a heavily pared-down and cheaper version of the National Broadband Network (NBN) it claims will be completed by the end of 2019.

Speaking at the official launch of the Coalition’s broadband policy at Fox Sports studios in the Sydney suburb of Artarmon, Opposition leader Tony Abbott and shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull laid out plans for a Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) network they claim can be delivered for far less than Labor’s present Fibre-to-the-Premises that has official headline cost $37.4 billion.

The Coalition’s official costing for its FTTN-based NBN now stands at $29.5 billion - a figure that is $7.9 billion cheaper than Labor’s official FTTP price-tag.

The announcement of the Coalition’s FTTN plans was widely anticipated after months of selected leaking.

However both Mr Turnbull and Mr Abbott have refused to give an estimate for the expected useable lifespan of the copper-based network that Telstra gladly agreed to vend into the NBN as part of a deal to structurally separate the carrier’s retail and wholesale arms.

The question of the realistic useful lifespan of the copper network is a key issue in terms of both costing and service delivery, especially when it comes to any necessity to renew connections directly to houses premises to achieve higher data carriage speeds.

Generally speaking, copper is now widely regarded within the telecommunications industry as being at the upper-end of achievable speeds; while optical fibre, which conveys data using photons rather than electrons, is believed to still have some way to go.

“Obviously all infrastructure has a lifespan, copper has a lifespan, fibre has a lifespan so all infrastructure has a lifespan. Infrastructure over time has to be renewed but there is no reason why most of the copper that is in place can’t continue to be used,” Mr Abbott said in response to a question from Government News.

“One of the problems with the Labor NBN is that it junks perfectly useful infrastructure, it junks useful copper, useful HFC (hybrid coaxial) cabling and we don’t want to do this,” Mr Abbott said   just before Mr Turnbull jumped in to better clarify how the Coalition sees the boundaries of copper’s capacity.

“When you roll out a FTTN network you should always do so with a view to having the option of going FTTP down the track,” Mr Turnbull said.

Just how far down the track in terms of time and what optical replacements may later be required is an important factor for communities relying on copper, not least because they could potentially be left behind areas that get fibre.

Another important issue is that if the lifespan of copper in a particular area is relatively short, further upgrades could be later required later at an additional cost.

When asked what the Coalition’s estimate for the lifespan of copper was, Mr Turnbull said “nobody knows”   before talking-up copper’s potential to be turbo-charged.

“Copper is delivering much faster speeds today through xdsl, adsl, adsl+, vdsl vdsl2+, vdsl 2+ with vectoring,” Mr Turnbull said.

“All of these technologies are delivering dramatically higher speeds. You’re getting over 100 [megabits per second] on the copper you so deride. [Telecommunication carriers] around the world are delivering this.”

“Putting that additional fibre capacity out to the fibre distribution point is very cheap to do . . .  so that’s how you provision fibre on demand, that’s how you provision upgrades.”

These recent developments in making copper faster were not around when the Coalition had previously considered FTTN Mr Turnbull said.

While the Coalition’s commitment to retaining copper and pay-television cabling as a means to deliver faster broadband is unlikely to please most of the local technology industry, the Coalition’s broadband election policy is still substantially more thorough than a previous attempt that saw both Mr Abbott and erstwhile Communications shadow Tony Smith flounder badly on details.

In a tacit admission of how badly askew the Coalition previous broadband policy went, Mr Abbott repeatedly praised Mr Turnbull’s efforts to deliver a policy that he said was one of the best offered yet by an opposition.

Mr Abbott is now effusive in his enthusiasm for the technology that has previously caused the Coalition so many headaches – and cost it votes and ultimately government because of the position of the independents at the last election.

“Our modern lives are absolutely unimaginable without access to broadband technology. I couldn’t do my job without access to broadband technology,” Mr Abbott said – a far cry from his previous directive to Mr Turnbull to demolish the NBN.

“Teachers, nurses, businesspeople, people at home, millions and millions of Australians are using broadband every single day and it’s important that they are getting better broadband services than they are currently getting under this government,” Mr Abbott said.

But there also some important caveats on the Coalition’s reuse of copper, especially in areas where the heritage telecommunications plumbing is experiencing difficulties.

“In an area where there is a lot of ground water and there are a lot of problems, endemic problems with the copper – that’s an area where you might put fibre right through that part of the country,” Mr Turnbull said.

“You just make a rational business decision, a cost effective business decision.”

In terms of implementation detail and timelines, the Coalition has vowed to undertake a “strategic review” of NBN Co. if elected which it expects will report back to it within 60 days on a slew of issues including progress, financial status and the cost and time under existing policies and the costs and times of variations like running FTTN to established areas.

A second probe will come in the form of “a separate independent audit to examine the public policy process which led to the NBN and the NBN Co’s governance.”

And a third review will come in the form of an “independent cost benefit analysis and review of regulation” that will look into the “direct and indirect value, in economic and social terms, of increased broadband speeds, and to what extent broadband should be supported by the government?”

At the policy launch Mr Turnbull confirmed that a cost benefit analysis would also include the present NBN model.

The trifecta of governance and policy investigations constitute prudent insurance for an incoming government because they can act to realign public and industry expectations in terms of any changes to stated election policies base – all based on arm’s-length or independent advice.

They could also buy the Coalition valuable time if the extent of the present NBN rollout makes delivering an FTTN alternative slower, or more expensive, than the Coalition has publicly anticipated.

Both Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull confirmed that the NBN will stay ‘off Budget’ in terms of its financial treatment in government accounts.

As for selling off the controversial infrastructure asset in the future – which is how Telstra came to become a private rather than a government entity – Mr Abbott said “we won’t sell until it’s ready to sell.”

“The deal will not be bad news for Telstra. Telstra shareholders have nothing to fear from our approach,” Mr Abbott said.

Telstra shares closed higher by 2 per cent at $4.58.

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By Julian Bajkowski

The already bitter war of words over the progress of the rollout of the National Broadband Network has intensified after federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy pounced on a dissenting report from a Coalition members of a Parliamentary Committee delving into the project to rekindle accusations that the Opposition is plotting to “demolish” the fibre build if it wins power.

The government is claiming that recommendations from the Coalition contained in the fourth report of the Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network amount to confirmation that the project will be halted after the Coalition warned the network builder it needed to consider the legal implications of a change of government.

“The benefits of changing contract terms in the lead up to the September 14th election need to be clearly articulated by the NBN Co.,” the Coalition’s dissenting report recommended.

“The NBN Co and its board should be clearly mindful of a possibility of a change of Government and the need to alter contracts down the contract. The NBN Co and its board should ensure suitable flexibility is written into the terms of future contracts. If this is not possible, then the likely costs of changing and lengthening contract terms need to be weighed against perceived benefits.”

Senator Conroy’s claim that the Coalition is planning to get rid of the Fibre To The Home (FTTH) build stems from a 2010 statement by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that he had told Communications shadow Malcolm Turnbull to “demolish” the project.

While Mr Turnbull has repeatedly sought to outline cheaper alternatives to FTTH that could potentially take advantage of already completed work on the NBN, Mr Abbott is yet to clarify his position on its so-called demolition.

The hardball tactics of the Coalition during the committee process have drawn a stern rebuke from NBN Committee chairman and independent MP Rob Oakeshot – a former Nationals member – who warned that partisan baggage needed to be checked at the Committee door in line with Parliamentary tradition.

“It has been several months of disagreement between committee members on some very basic points in this report that have seen the report delivered later than planned.

"This is disappointing,” Mr Oakeshott said.

“The tradition of committee membership in Australian political culture is that adversarial politics is left at the door. It is a concern to many that this culture is showing signs of changing on this Committee, where sensitivities of our oversight work as compared to political party election platforms has made the work of the committee much more difficult than it need be.”

Despite being overshadowed by the shouting match over tactics, the NBN Committee report has illuminated a number of issues with potentially serious implications for consumers, local governments and NBN Co. itself.

A key recommendation of the Committee is that the government “expand the scope of NBN Co responsibilities to continue to explore the synergies between fixed and mobile telecommunications networks with a view to using the NBN to improve mobile telecommunications as well as providing broadband services.”

“Allowing private providers to ‘piggyback’ off of NBN Co infrastructure to provide mobile telephone services would be a timely and efficient use of telecommunications resources in regional and remote Australia,” the report said.

The issue of poor mobile services in many parts of regional Australia has been a bone of contention between carriers and governments of all flavours as mobile services have grown to be regarded as a staple communications service rather than a luxury.

At the same time many state government emergency services now push warning and evacuation messages directly to people’s mobile phones as disasters like bushfires, cyclones and floods unfold.

The report has also recommended that the government explore the possibility of allowing private equity to buy into the project as a way of sharing the government’s immediate financial load.

“The committee recommends that the Government:  seek to gauge investor interest in the National Broadband Network; and investigate the optimum capital structure for the NBN Co.,” the report said.

However that idea has already been hosed down by the that the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy which does not view private investment as comfortable fit for the project.

One issue the NBN Co. is clearly feeling some discomfort over is how to plug blocks of flats into the new network, not least because of the difficulties of rewiring strata and multi-dwelling premises with optical fibre.

The scenario threatens a repeat episode of the so-called ‘Pay TV wars’ where residents in flats often missed out on services like Foxtel because contractors were not able to wire-up unit blocks because of a combination of access problems, strata-management disputes and occasional conflicts with local governments.

The issue of access to “Multi Dwelling Units” (MDUs) was again raised by Mr Turnbull this month when he complained that many of his constituents lived in flats and didn’t know when they might get the NBN.

In its dissenting report the Coalition has recommended that “the NBN should immediately investigate international experience of connecting MDUs using existing internal wiring, including Fibre to the Basement.”

That would mean that flat dwellers potentially connected to the NBN using either cable television wiring or existing phone copper wiring.

“The Shareholder Minister’s Statement of Expectations to the NBN Co should be amended so that the NBN Co is no longer expected to terminate the fibre at each individual premises. The NBN Co should be given scope to terminate the fibre at an appropriate distance from the end user’s premises, as would still allow the delivery of very fast broadband,” the dissenting report said.

It claimed that “the bottom line is that Australia’s largest infrastructure project in history is a black box.”

 

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By Paul Hemsley

Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy has slotted another piece of the National Broadband Network (NBN) puzzle into place, rolling out the new fibre optic infrastructure in Hobart, Tasmania.

Hobart’s connection to the NBN closely follows the Tasmanian government inking a deal with internet service provider iiNet to link its core network between police stations and the state government using the new network.

A core element of the Tasmanian Department of Police’s deal with iiNet was that it was the first state government policy agency to sign up for the NBN, with half of the department’s police stations scheduled for access to better internet services through the NBN by 2014.

According to the federal government, Hobart is the fifth site in Tasmania to connect to the NBN. This follows the hook up from Triabunna, Sorrell, Deloraine and Kingston Beach.

Senator Conroy urged Tasmanian residents in Hobart to make the switch to the NBN’s “superfast broadband” as more than 34,500 Australians have already made the technological leap.

“The cost of the NBN for customers is cheaper than or comparable to what people are paying now, but the NBN provides a vastly superior service,” Senator Conroy said.

Senator Conroy was joined by his Tasmanian Labor colleagues federal Minister for Community Services Julie Collins, Senator Carol Brown and Senator Lisa Singh, who unanimously praised the federal government efforts to link the island state with the rest of the country through the NBN.

Ms Collins said this is an “exciting time” for local residents who will now be able to experience the benefits of faster, more reliable broadband through the NBN.

Senator Brown said around 1800 homes and businesses can now connect in Hobart as work has also commenced in Kingston, St Helens, Launceston, Bellerive and Sommerset.

“This construction is expected to be completed during 2013,” Senator Brown said.

Senator Singh said Tasmania has a “great a head-start” (sic) on the rest of the country and will be the first state to be fully connected to the NBN by mid-2015.

NBN Co’s community relations manager for Tasmania Lalla McKenzie said the NBN is helping to foster “real competition” among phone companies and ISPs in Tasmania.

“That helps drive affordable retail prices for families,” Ms McKenzie said.

According to Ms McKenzie, every provider has equal access to the network and NBN Co's prices are the same in the city and the bush.

Ten internet service providers have lined up to gather Hobart’s residents and businesses to sign up to the NBN including Telstra, Optus, iPrimus, Spintel, iiNet, Exetel, Commander, Westnet, Internode and MyNetFone.

Launceston, Bellerive and Sommerset.

“This construction is expected to be completed during 2013,” Senator Brown said.

Senator Singh said Tasmania has a “great a head-start” (sic) on the rest of the country and will be the first state to be fully connected to the NBN by mid-2015.

NBN Co’s community relations manager for Tasmania Lalla McKenzie said the NBN is helping to foster “real competition” among phone companies and ISPs in Tasmania.

“That helps drive affordable retail prices for families,” Ms McKenzie said.

According to Ms McKenzie, every provider has equal access to the network and NBN Co's prices are the same in the city and the bush.

Ten internet service providers have lined up to gather Hobart’s residents and businesses to sign up to the NBN including Telstra, Optus, iPrimus, Spintel, iiNet, Exetel, Commander, Westnet, Internode and MyNetFone.

 

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By Paul Hemsley

The Victorian Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority has signed a four year extension with Motorola Solutions to upgrade the Metropolitan Mobile Radio (MMR) network.

Allowing the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA), Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade to communicate seamlessly with one another, the upgrades will be built upon an older building contract.

This contract between the Motorola and the Victorian Government was initiated in 2004 for the vendor to design, build and manage the MMR network, assisting the agencies’ issues with previously incompatible systems and improving coverage.

The recent agreement beginning from 2012 to 2016, with the option of a further two years, sees Motorola implementing software and equipment upgrades.

Motorola Solutions Australia managing director, Gary Starr said the process of making this agreement involved starting early before the end of the term for the government to decide if they want to continue.

Mr Starr told Government News that the government needs to make a decision before the end of that date, because they would otherwise have to find an alternative.

“The alternatives were they could take the network back and run it themselves, they could just get us to do maintenance, extend with that and just have the network in lockdown and leave it as is,” Mr Starr said.

In terms of training, there is an element of training and support in these large contracts, Mr Starr said.

“We manage the network end-to-end from installation into the vehicle or to the person or de-installation or repair, so there is an obligation to provide training on the terminal devices they use,” Mr Starr said.

According to Mr Starr, when an agency changes its workflow, Motorola has to refresh the training.

“The difference in Victoria is they’ve done it as a public-private partnership and in a PPP, they write down all the risks and they divide them up,” he said.

He said spectrum sits with the government and coverage sits with private.

According to Mr Starr, it is a complex process because there is no tender and in some ways there is more scrutiny because a tender is very transparent,

“You go to market, everyone responds, there’s the best value for money,” Mr Starr said.

He said in this case, they hold themselves to even greater account because they are not going through a competitive process; they go through a very rigorous process establishing value for money.

“It was a year of frenetic negotiation and evaluation and a year before that of looking at what’s happening globally and at least establishing where to from here,” he said.

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The National Broadband Network (NBN) alone does not address all telecommunications services that are critical for regional and rural Victoria, according to the Victorian Government.

The Regional Telecommunications Review will receive advice from the state government through a submission covering the interests of regional and rural areas.

The review calls for a national strategy to fix significant gaps in access to broadband and mobile telecommunications in the state’s regional and rural areas.

Minister for Technology, Gordon Rich-Phillips said the state’s review submission to the Commonwealth emphasises the importance of fixing mobile network coverage and quality, which the NBN policy does not cover.

Mr Rich-Phillips said mobile and broadband coverage blackspots, a lack of telecommunication service competition and low service uptake have
“disproportionately affected” these areas.

"The Victorian Government is applying a balanced and practical approach to ensure that Victorian industry and broadband users get the best possible outcome from the NBN,” Mr Rich-Phillips said.

“However, more can be done to support a competitive regional telecommunications market and an environment in which broadband enables greater business productivity, and more efficient government services," Mr Rich-Phillips said.

He said Victoria’s regions are subject to different drivers for economic growth and have different opportunities for development.

"Population, economic and social trends in Victoria are complex, therefore conditions for supply and demand for telecommunications vary widely,” he said.

According to Mr Rich-Phillips, Commonwealth policy improving regional telecommunications needs to recognise these differences and enable appropriately tailored solutions.

Recommendations made to the federal government were to develop a high quality broadband rollout strategy; improve mobile phone coverage; and support development of the ‘digital economy’ in rural and regional areas to drive productivity and social improvements.

The Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee will advise the federal government on the state of regional and rural telecommunications in Australia through the Regional Telecommunications Review.

[post_title] => NBN coverage sought for regional Victoria [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nbn-coverage-sought-for-regional-victoria [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-02-11 12:21:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-02-11 01:21:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 13 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28147 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-10-02 21:25:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-10-02 10:25:41 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_28148" align="alignnone" width="300"] A pair of CubeSats, with the Earth’s limb in the background, is seen moments after being ejected from a small satellite deployer outside of the space station’s Kibo lab module in May 2017. Photo: NASA.[/caption] Nick Ellis UNSW Canberra and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will develop three Cubesats to be used for maritime surveillance, with the first lifting off in early 2018. UNSW Canberra has signed a $9.96 million contract with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to develop new ways to enhance Australia’s future Defence space capability. Engineers and scientists from UNSW Canberra Space will design and build three Cubesat spacecraft for two space missions, to be launched into Low Earth Orbit. Cubesats are miniaturised satellites with a standardised form that fits into ‘piggy-back’ dispensers on most commercial rocket launch services They are made up of units that are 10 centimetres cubed, use a variety of off-the-shelf and bespoke electronic components and sensors. They are economical, can be applied to a wide array of space-based purposes (particularly for space research, Earth observations and communications), and can be rapidly designed and built to high standards. 3 unit (3U) Cubesats are roughly the size of a loaf of bread and weigh approximately 4kg. 6 unit (6U) Cubesats are twice the size as 3U. Director of UNSW Canberra Space, Professor Russell Boyce says the Cubesats will be used for maritime surveillance. "These spacecraft are able to gather remote sensing information with radios and cameras, and are the sort of innovative space capability that can help meet many ground-based needs in ways that make sense for Australia,” Professor Boyce said. “Because they have re-programmable software defined radios on board, we can change their purpose on the fly during the mission, which greatly improves the spacecraft’s functional capabilities for multiple use by Defence." The first will lift-off in early 2018, followed by the second in 2019. The space missions will also deliver research and educational outcomes for Defence and civilian students studying engineering at UNSW Canberra. UNSW Canberra Rector, Professor Michael Frater, said the space program is built on the university’s strengths in satellite and sensor R&D. “UNSW Canberra has invested significantly to build a very large world class team of space scientists and engineers. With the announcement this week of a national space agency, we are very excited about the future of space in Australia. We look forward to having a leading role in the space industry, both through education and research.”   [post_title] => RAAF, UNSW to cooperate in space [post_excerpt] => UNSW Canberra and the RAAF will develop three Cubesats for maritime surveillance. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => raaf-unsw-cooperate-space-missions [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-10-06 10:29:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-10-05 23:29:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://governmentnews.com.au/?p=28147 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 13 [max_num_pages] => 1 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => 1 [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 05a09c8fbc621bc92d420fa97fffb419 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )

telecommunications

telecommunications

Copper, loopholes and probes dominate Coalition’s cut-down NBN launch

By Julian Bajkowski The Coalition has gambled large on reviving Australia’s ageing copper telecommunications network to supply broadband download speeds of between 25 megabits per second and 100 megabits per second to deliver a heavily pared-down and cheaper version of the National Broadband Network (NBN) it claims will be completed by the end of 2019. […]

NBN demolition fuse reignites

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Hobart switched on for NBN

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Motorola renews radio network contract

By Paul Hemsley The Victorian Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority has signed a four year extension with Motorola Solutions to upgrade the Metropolitan Mobile Radio (MMR) network. Allowing the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA), Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade to communicate seamlessly with one another, the upgrades will be built upon an […]

NBN coverage sought for regional Victoria

The National Broadband Network (NBN) alone does not address all telecommunications services that are critical for regional and rural Victoria, according to the Victorian Government. The Regional Telecommunications Review will receive advice from the state government through a submission covering the interests of regional and rural areas. The review calls for a national strategy to […]