This paper proposes a new vehicle, dubbed SafetyNet, for improving communications in rural and remote Australia. A wholesale mobile network using LTE in the 450 MHz spectrum band is proposed. SafetyNet would address any updated Universal Service Obligation, public safety network options and mobile roaming.
The USO ensures access to voice communication services for all Australians. The obligation has changed very little in comparison to the telecommunications market and consumers? use of services. This presents a number of gaps and risks for consumers, such as data and mobile services. However, updating the obligation to include these services alone will likely fail consumers. This paper argues for a new framework based on a principle of contactability. This new framework will have four key areas: availability, affordability, accessibility and service standards. A further two areas; online service delivery and literacy and empowerment, are also needed to fully ensure contactability is achieved.
The Universal Service Obligation (USO) scheme in Australia today is 25 years old. This paper shows how the current USO entrenches an annual subsidy of some $300M to Telstra. The current expensive USO scheme is inadequate and in the light of modern developments in broadband and mobile. The paper reviews the approach taken to across the world and draws lessons for a way forward to establish a Universal Service Fund (USF) where the NBN is the Universal Infrastructure wholesale provider with alternative retailers. The paper supports five practical interrelated recommendations as well as reimagining future payphones around public WiFi and rural community innovation.
This paper recommends that the Australian Government?s commitment to a Mobile Black Spot co-investment programme should commence with a comprehensive study of backhaul and base station technology options. The most cost effective approaches include the coordinated provisioning of modern satellite and terrestrial backhaul systems, and the implementation of small cell base station types.
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