What is the Government doing in digital infrastructure?

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The Government’s role is creating the right enabling environment to ensure Australia’s digital infrastructure supports changing business and community needs.

Below is a summary of major government work on digital infrastructure; for a list of all government initiatives, refer to Australia’s Tech Future website.

Building communications infrastructure

Australia’s digital infrastructure is rapidly transforming due to one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken. The National Broadband Network (NBN) is on track for completion by 2020 and improvements are being made to the consumer experience for all Australians. By mid-2018, over 60 per cent of all Australian premises could access NBN services.

Benefits are already flowing from the NBN rollout. NBN Co Limited commissioned data analytics and economic research firm AlphaBeta to investigate the social and economic impacts of the network rollout. The research found that access to the NBN helped drive an estimated $1.2 billion in additional economic activity in 2017 and had helped create up to 5,400 businesses and 9,700 new jobs. The same research estimates that the benefits to Australia once the NBN rollout is complete include up to $10.4 billion of additional annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as well as the creation of up to 80,000 new businesses and up to 148,000 additional digital jobs by 2021.

The new Universal Service Guarantee for broadband services as well as voice services will be implemented following the NBN rollout. Separately, a review is being conducted of the general Telecommunications Consumer Safeguards that apply to all services, to assess what safeguards may be needed in the future. Recommendations are expected to be made to government by the end of 2018.

An open and competitive mobile market already exists, and the Government is making the allocation of a critical input, spectrum, more efficient. Australia’s mobile network operators—Optus, Telstra and Vodafone— already provide more than 99 per cent of Australians with access to world-class mobile coverage. Vodafone and TPG have announced their intention to merge (subject to regulatory approval), potentially forming stronger competition in the sector. The extent of Australia’s mobile coverage, affordability, investment and innovation is recognised by the GSM Association, which has ranked Australia first of 150 nations on its Mobile Connectivity Index. These world-leading networks have been delivered by industry investment in a competitive environment.

Through the Mobile Black Spot Program the Government is improving mobile phone coverage across Australia.

Leading economies are focussed on 5G as the next step in the evolution of mobile technology. 5G is the next step in the evolution of mobile wireless communications technology, promising improved connectivity, greater network speeds and bandwidth, and very low latency. The Government is working with industry to support the timely rollout of 5G in Australia.

Getting this rollout right will:

  • give the right signals for industry investment
  • give consumers better services
  • enable new applications in industry, especially with massive scale automation delivered through multiple connected devices
  • support critical communications assured by low latency and ultra-reliable networks (Government actions are detailed in the 5G – Enabling the future economy report)
  • improve competition between providers
  • support economic productivity and growth (detailed in the Impacts of 5G on productivity and economic growth report).

The Government is ensuring that Australia’s communications sector is sustainable and competitive. That is why the Government is implementing the Telecommunications Reform Package. This will provide a regulatory framework that promotes investment and competition in the telecommunications market and improves access to broadband services in regional, rural and remote Australia.

Supporting navigation and positioning infrastructure

The Government is providing $224.9 million to upgrade to world-class navigation and positioning infrastructure to support emerging technologies. These initiatives will:

  • provide better GPS for regional Australia with an accuracy of 10cm
  • build a network of ground stations to provide GPS data with an accuracy of 3-5cm in major population centres.

Improving the accuracy, integrity and availability of satellite navigation will deliver significant benefits to Australians on the ground, particularly those in the agricultural, logistics, mining, aviation, maritime and fishing industries.

Funding high performance research infrastructure

In response to the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, the Government has committed $1.9 billion over 12 years to support national-scale research facilities. A further $140 million has been provided to upgrade Australia’s two Tier 1 high performance computing facilities. This will ensure our top high-performance computing infrastructure gets the ongoing and significant investment required for areas such as aviation safety and climate science.

“Throughout our consultations to develop the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap the critical importance of Australia’s two high-performance computers was manifestly clear.”

Dr Alan Finkel, Chief Scientists – DECEMBER 2017

Enable Smart Cities

Through the Smart Cities Plan, new technology is revolutionising how cities are planned and function, and how Australia’s economy grows. To succeed in the 21st century economy our cities need to be productive, accessible and liveable.

Technology can make cities more prosperous and sustainable. Real time data and smart technology will lead to better utilisation of infrastructure, clean energy and energy efficiency, improving of service and better benchmarking of cities performance. The Smart Cities Plan also supports investment in sectors commercialising new innovations to grow Australia’s economy.