Communications Minister Stephen Conroy today announced the first five regional sites to be hooked up to the National Broadband Network (NBN) through long-term evolution (LTE) fixed-wireless technology.
"I'm announcing today, the first communities to receive the NBN via NBN Co's fixed wireless service. They will be homes, businesses and institutions in the less densely populated rural communities that surround Geraldton in Western Australia, Toowoomba in Queensland, Tamworth in New South Wales, Ballarat in Victoria and Darwin in the Northern Territory," Conroy told an audience at an Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) lunch in Sydney today.
Conroy said these users will be connected at the middle of 2012, with construction of the wireless portion the network to be completed by 2015.
In June, NBN Co announced that Ericsson had secured a $1.1 billion contract to construct the fixed-wireless portion of the NBN that will cover approximately 4 per cent of the population outside of the 93 per cent fibre footprint. The remaining 3 per cent will receive broadband through NBN Co's satellite service.
NBN Co's LTE network will run on 2.3GHz spectrum that NBN Co secured from Austar at $120 million and from an auction of leftover spectrum this year. Initial product offerings on the fixed wireless service are expected to be 12 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1Mbps upload. NBN Co has expressed that better speed offerings could be made available in the near future.
At the AIIA event, Conroy also revealed that the first greenfield sites to have NBN fibre laid will soon be going live on the network.
"Very, very shortly, we will be turning on the first new greenfield homes. So these are new houses, where we're starting to put in connections," he said. "The first Australians living in new housing estates with just the NBN."
Conroy also confirmed that, following the Kiama launch last week and the Armidale launch in May, the inner-city Melbourne suburb of Brunswick would have a launch tomorrow with trial customers.
The government has recruited the AIIA to develop and promote the digital economy in Australia, as part of the government's digital economy strategy for 2020, Conroy said at the event.
"This MOU [memorandum of understanding] we've signed with the AIIA is a clear commitment by government and industry to work strategically together to develop a joint plan of action to bring the benefits of the NBN to fruition," he said.
In a statement, newly appointed AIIA CEO Suzanne Campbell said that it was important for Australia to take steps to create the value promised by high-speed broadband infrastructure.
"That value won't simply arrive with the infrastructure. Small business and local communities need to engage closely with application providers and technology vendors to realise the benefits on offer," she said. "This is about productivity and growth in local economies through new applications and services. AIIA members have a strong contribution to make."