Issue No 12: 13 May 2020



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  • ACOMMS 2020: 26 August 2020 - Nominate here

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Visit the 2019 ACOMMS photo gallery here and highlights video here. Media Release here.


Industry Welcomes 5G Inquiry Report Highlighting the Crucial Role 5G Plays to all Australians

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) and Communications Alliance welcome the 5G Inquiry Report by the House Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts tabled in Parliament today.

The Committee assessed 5G technology from all perspectives over the past 12 months and clearly identified 5G as a safe and transformative technology – building on the legacy of previous mobile generations (3G and 4G).

The Report highlighted that 5G will enable substantial opportunities for innovation and connectivity to benefit Australian consumers and industries alike. 5G provides the crucial enabling architecture needed to support the onset of the fourth industrial revolution, where Australians will experience the blurring of lines between the cyber and physical in their workplaces, homes and leisure time. In addition to the direct benefits of 5G enabled technologies, it will also provide significant beneficial flow-on impacts by delivering enhanced productivity and connectivity to furtherdrive the economy and society forward.

The Committee observed the many decades of scientific research into the health and safety of mobile technologies and are assured  that 5G is safe. It stated that we are at a point where enough is known about the standards and safety of 5G technology to allow businesses of all sizes, communities and individuals to imagine new use cases and opportunities and be able to now bring them to life.

In addition to recognising the crucial and important role 5G will play, the report calls out that technology can be complex to understand so there is an ongoing need to provide public education resources to explain mobile networks and the mobile infrastructure needed in our cities and towns to enable 5G’s contribution to a better-connected future for Australia.  

AMTA CEO, Chris Althaus, said: “The broader mobile network including 3G, 4G, and increasingly 5G, has played a crucial role in enabling Australians to remain connected during these challenging recent months – highlighting our significant need for connectivity – economically and socially.

“The mobile telecommunications industry looks forward to working with the government on consideration of the Report’s recommendations to ensure the right regulatory environment and essential 5G mobile infrastructure is in place to enable all Australians, including those in rural and regional Australia, to benefit from the productivity and connectivity 5G will enable.”

Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said: “5G will deliver unprecedented opportunity across the community and economy, and we will now take time to consider the details of this report which is built on 12 months of thorough analysis and discussion with the science and research sector, industry and community representatives.”

Strengthening Telecommunications Emergency Resilience

The Morrison McCormack Government is investing $37.1 million to strengthen telecommunications resilience in bushfire and disaster prone areas so that communities can stay connected during emergencies.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, and Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government, the Hon Mark Coulton MP, said the Government is taking swift action to implement measures to improve telecommunications resilience and redundancy following the 2019-20 bushfire season.

The four elements of the $37.1 million package are:

Improving the resilience of regional and remote mobile phone base stations

$18 million, including $10 million from the Mobile Black Spot Program, will be spent on upgrades to mobile phone base stations to keep them operating for longer during bushfires. The main cause of base station outages in the 2019-20 bushfires was loss of mains power. This money will fund longer lasting backup power sources, such as batteries and diesel generators for base stations built under Rounds 1 and 2 of the Mobile Black Spot Program. A new competitive grants process to fund up to 50 per cent of the capital cost of upgrades to other mobile base stations.

Portable communications facilities to allow quicker service restoration

$10 million will be allocated to purchase portable communications facilities such as cells on wheels (COWs), mobile exchanges on wheels (MEOWs) and NBN Road Muster trucks, which can be positioned in bushfire affected areas to allow communications services to be restored quickly. Funding will be allocated under a competitive grants process, with the telcos to own the portable facilities but give commitments to Government about their use during emergencies.

Program to deliver improved communications

$2.1 million will be put towards a pilot program over the next two bushfire seasons to improve the information provided about access to telecommunications in emergencies.

Enhanced telecommunications for rural fire authorities and evacuation centres

$7 million will fund the deployment of approximately 2,000 NBN Co satellite services across the country, to rural and country fire services and designated evacuation centres, to provide additional redundancy when fixed line connections are experiencing outages.

“Access to telecommunications before, during and after a disaster is critical. We need to learn from what happened in the 2019-20 bushfires – and make our networks more resilient in the future,” Minister Fletcher said.

“The measures we’re announcing today will help Australians stay connected when it matters most, and maintain the ability to contact family, insurers, and emergency and support services.”

Minister for Regional Communications Mark Coulton said the announcement provides a significant boost in the resilience of our mobile network that will help emergency services and communities stay connected for longer during emergencies.

“Supplementing today’s announcement is the discussion paper we recently released on the design of Round 5A of the Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program, to ensure that regional communities are benefiting as much as possible from this successful program,” Minister Coulton said.

“One of the objectives of Round 5A is to improve mobile connectivity for communities in disaster-prone regions, so in conjunction with this additional investment announced today, regional areas will be much better prepared during future emergencies.”

Minister Fletcher said: “We know how important it is to keep Australians connected, especially during emergencies. These measures are an important step in further strengthening our telco networks so they are as resilient as possible during future emergency situations.”

These measures are part of the $650 million bushfire recovery funding package announced by the Morrison Government, focused on locally-led recovery to address the greatest community needs, which is a component of the Government’s $2 billion National Bushfire Recovery Fund announced in January this year.

NBN Co Secures $6.1 Billion in Private Sector Funding

The Morrison Government is pleased to announce that NBN Co has secured $6.1 billion in debt finance on external markets, demonstrating strong support for NBN Co’s outlook.

The new credit facilities each have a five-year term and represent NBN Co’s inaugural long-term borrowing from private debt markets.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said that the strong interest on private debt markets to support the future financing needs of NBN Co demonstrated that there was strong support in the market for the NBN business plan and outlook.

“The Government had flagged some time ago that it expected NBN Co to pursue debt financing through external markets, including in order to start the process of re-financing its loan with the Commonwealth.

“NBN Co approached the bank market with a request for an initial $2.0 billion, as foreshadowed in its 2020-23 Corporate Plan. Given the positive response from the market, NBN Co has secured additional lines of credit totalling $4.1 billion at very competitive prices,” Senator Cormann said.

“There is no requirement for NBN Co to draw down on these additional facilities immediately, but the Government agrees with the company that it makes sense to have these facilities in place, to give it flexibility and given current economic conditions.”

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said that NBN Co is at a pivotal point as it nears network build completion and prepares for its next phase of operations as a self-sustaining telecommunications wholesaler.

“The company has entered into arrangements with a number of Australian and international banks to secure funding through private debt, complementing Commonwealth Government funding capped at $49 billion,” Minister Fletcher said.

“NBN Co is expected to draw down $2.0 billion from the $6.1 billion raised and complete the build within its $51 billion funding envelope, as set out in its 2020-23 Corporate Plan. The additional funding will provide the company opportunities to invest and create even more value for Australians guided by future Corporate Plans.”

From the additional $4.1 billion debt facilities, $1.5 billion will be reserved for working capital to provide the company with added flexibility and to support NBN Co’s long term capital management strategy. The balance of funds is available for strategic investments with a positive return beyond the initial rollout phase and repayment of the Commonwealth loan, subject to shareholder approval. 

As outlined in its 2019-22 Corporate Plan, NBN Co is expected to refinance its $19.5 billion debt facility from the Australian Government with private debt by 30 June 2024. Having the additional private debt facilities provides NBN Co with the flexibility to pay down this loan without jeopardising its performance.

The Government remains committed to delivering the best-value National Broadband Network through NBN Co, providing all Australians access to reliable, fast and affordable broadband.

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