Qld calls to divert NBN funds to improve mobile coverage

Qld calls to divert NBN funds to improve mobile coverage

Summary: The Queensland Liberal National government has called for the federal government to divert funding from the National Broadband Network rollout to improve mobile coverage in flood-affected areas.


Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry John McVeigh has called on the federal government to divert funding from the AU$37.4 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) fibre network rollout to improve mobile coverage in flood-affected areas.

McVeigh said in a statement that after travelling across areas hit by recent floods, there were problems with poor mobile coverage across the board.

"Extensive travel across the region during the past fortnight inspecting flood-damaged properties proved to me just how bad the mobile coverage is in many areas," McVeigh said.

"Many places in the North Burnett suffer from poor mobile coverage, while places like Coalstoun Lakes have no coverage at all. It's unacceptable."

McVeigh suggested that the government's NBN investment would be better spent on towers.

"With the Gillard government spending more than AU$35 billion rolling out broadband in select towns and regions, surely some of those funds could be diverted into building a few phone towers in the North Burnett," he said.

McVeigh indicated that he had written to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, asking him to address the issue.

It is not the first time it has been suggested that NBN funds be diverted. Opposition leader Tony Abbott has previously said that NBN funding should be redirected to build roads or fund tax cuts.

However, as the NBN investment is almost completely listed as off-budget because the government is expecting a return on its investment, any diversion of funding would likely appear on-budget, and would cause the government to go farther into deficit.

Western Australia paid for its own mobile network upgrades, awarding AU$39.2 million to Telstra last year to build 113 new mobile sites across the state. Telstra has previously called for the federal government to subsidise the rollout of telecommunications infrastructure into regional areas where it is not commercially viable for telcos to roll out networks on their own.

Topics: NBN, Government, Government AU


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • What?

    I'm very surprised LNP minister McVeigh is not saying the private sector should do this without federal government assistance. After all, private sector, will always meet the communities needs (j/k)!!
    Mark S-8ff5e
    • The LNP isn't the Tea Party

      Private enterprise hasn't provided mobile coverage in remote areas because it's not commercially viable. The LNP is not some rabid free–market–at–any–cost group, but they do believe that governments should not compete in markets that are well served by private enterprise.

      Therefore where essential services are required but are not commercially viable to provide, the government should look at assisting in their provision as a community service.

      Not a difficult concept to grasp.

      Unfortunately ideologues like Conroy believe in government ownership of major industries, hence NBN Co will essentially own a very large chunk of Australian telecommunications infrastructure. All in the interests of wresting control of said infrastructure from Telstra, who were a government monopoly and whose privatization of both services and infrastructure in a single entity was put in place by a Labor government, though it was ultimately delivered by the coalition.
      Fred Fredrickson
      • Err

        "The LNP is not some rabid free–market–at–any–cost group"

        As someone who is pro-NBN but a swinging voter, can you prove this comment to be true?
      • Translation

        The Private sector will cherry pick the most lucrative sectors, their lucrative profits will be paid to shareholders instead of subsidising less profitable areas. The Taxpayer is then forced to replace those paid out dividends in cold hard taxpayer dollars in subsidies or even providing the service, taking funds from Health, Social security, education and roads etc. The ONLY winners the private sector shareholders
        Abel Adamski
      • The Myth of Private enterprise

        Fred it seems is not a student of history, once upon a time Australia had the most advanced telecommunication system in the world, The cost to use that system were among the lowest in the world given its advanced nature. Telecommunications companies from around the world all had R&D labs here in Australia where they developed and tested the latest and greatest.

        Australia was one the first countries in the world to use Fibre optics on production trunk services and interops between exchanges, mainly because the companies that developed the tech tested it here.

        And why did that happen. Because Telecom Australia (Telstra) was owned by the government and run by highly educated engineers who developed the network based on need not on BLOODY PROFIT like the leeches who run telecommunications in Australia today.

        Fred Fredrickson's argument falls apart in the rant about ideologues and government ownership. There is a wonderfuful example of Private enterprise expertise in rolling out telecommunications and that is the Foxtel/OPTUS cable rollout which cost at the time some 10billion dollars which would be closer to 80 - 100 billion today.

        This was a system that hit less than 20% of the nation, was a complete duplication and was TOTALLY INCOMPATIBLE with each other. This is the Liberals idea of a great system.

        The money wasted by that Private Enterprise stuff up robbed the superannuation of millions of people in Australia great work.

        Since Telstra has been public the investment in the network proper has been woeful and this is the main reason that Private Enterprise could not and should not build the NBN.

        In reality the NBN is no different that building/upgrading the national highways which are the life blood of commerce in Australia, I don't see the Liberal party supporters putting there hands up to do that.

        Now lets get onto Mr Mcveigh's demand for more mobile phone coverage. first thing how do you think mobile coverage from a Tower is provided.

        Well in part you need electricity, a really big steel tower with lightning protection, a stack of aerials, a Donga for all of the transmitter and receiver equipment with has to be air-conditioned and you have a mobile coverage; WRONG....

        No you need a FIBRE OPTIC CABLE CONNECTED TO THE NAIONAL GRID. Yes that is what gives you Mobile coverage the back haul on the Fibre.

        And its backhaul that the NBN will ultimately provide to Australia, without a well engineered and quality system built to last (NOT TO BE MILKED FOR PROFIT) Australia will have the capacity to provide and rollout wireless capacity where needed.

        IT is utter BullSh1T this argument that wireless will solve all of the broadband needs mainly because every time a user starts to make use of the wireless spectrum the speed gets slower and slower and slower until it stops. Try making a data or voice call from a football stadium when there are more that 20k people there, yes no coverage.

        But you see on the Fibre network you will never get that problem, that is why ALL of the mobile phone towers are linked directly to the Fibre network.

        During Cyclone Yasi when all of the mobile phone towers failed in the north, and the copper network failed when the pits flooded it was the Fibre links that stayed up allowing Telstra and the Defense Dept to quickly provide wireless coverage in effected areas, and yes the Main stream media DID NOT report that, that Fibre was part of the NBN which had been installed some 10 months earlier.

        So the next time some short sighted ideologue starts running at the mouth about the so called waste of the NBN or that Private Enterprise could do it cheaper just remember they have not bloody idea what there talking about and that all they want to do is to send this wonderful country back to the stone-age by providing third rate equipment run by third rate accountants who just want to rip the guts out it and milk it and us for every stinking dollar they can scam.
        Bill Whitehead
  • Taxpayer Subsidy

    I believe it is wrong to award large taxpayer funds to a single carrier, after all it is a competitive free market.
    The carriers if they are as great as the conservatives would have us believe will be doing it itself or are they that pathetic they need Taxpayer Support, in which case maybe the taxpayer should just take over communications to get value for money.

    Alternatively all taxpayer subsidised comms facities should be wholesale completely open to all carriers, those exclusive taxpayer assisted facilities which facilitate lock in bundles affecting all areas of communication are completely against the espoused principles of the benefits of competition
    Abel Adamski
    • Who said "single carrier"?

      McVeigh is simply asking for the government to assist remote communities with infrastructure where it's not viable for commercial entities to do so. He isn't asking for all contracts to be warded to any particular company.

      One solution is for the government to setup a quango to provide remote area infrastructure, then lease services to existing carriers at market rates. Whether your ideology leans left or right is irrelevant, the point is that remote communities have poor mobile coverage and the 40–something billion dollar NBN won't do anything to help with that.
      Fred Fredrickson

        Actually there are discussions with the mobile operators re using NBN towers, Vodaphone was mentioned in a recent article in relation to that.
        Abel Adamski
  • Maybe he just needs a better phone?

    When I hear government ministers complain about things like this, my first thought is always - what handset is he using?

    iphones aren't blue tick approved, for a start.

    According to telstra's coverage maps, Coalstoun Lakes has plenty of mobile coverage around it - it's not like the place is right on the edge of a coverage footprint.

    Further to all of that, Mr McVeigh needs to be educated about the NBN. It's for all australians, not a select few like he seems to suggest.

    Hopefully Mr Conroy mentions some of these facts in his reply, if and when that happens.
    • not as simple as you say

      I live in Coalstoun Lakes and have a Blue Tick Approved Phone. the only service I get is the occasional 1 Bar of service at a window sill which drops In and out regularly. It is highly inconvenient and could be very dangerous with no communication means in an emergency Situation in country towns like Coalstoun Lakes. Something really needs to be done.
  • no funding for towers

    The government Regional Telecommunications committee recommended the government spend money on more widespread mobile communications in regional areas... The government responded to this recommendation by saying there will be no government grants for rural mobile towers until at least 2015...

    I think they do not want competition for their NBN...
    • 2015

      That is the year that the NBN wireless rollout should be finished. I humbly suggest only so much tower erecting capacity and capacity to run in backhaul, during that period the opportunity is there to share the NBN towers as they spring up like mushrooms.
      Besides look at all those councils knocking back NBN towers, they would also be knocking back mobile wireless one's wouldn't they ?
      Abel Adamski
  • FFS

    And if they did... the ideologues would be here screaming that the government are again muscling in on the poor private sector... seriously
  • Standard LNP

    Privatise the benefits and socialise the costs. Malcolm Turnbull should be all over this.
  • NBN can be used to fix the problem

    As long as the NBN has fibre in a given area they can use the PON segments to deploy smaller cells that can be used to cover all the small black spots. I am a real fan of the small cells as its a major part to the future of fast mobile network.
    • no no no

      It's fibre to the premise or nothing.
      Blank Look
    • Shared towers

      are already on the table, mobile operators choice.

      Better to minimise taxpayer cost in subsidies and use existing or planned appropriate infrastructure
      Abel Adamski
  • Diverting funding is (Dr) Evil

    Regardless of what project it is, diverting money away from a costed and in construction project is plain ludicrous.

    Do we want to divert funding from the national highway to help build local roads that were devastated by flooding? Thus delaying the national highway.

    Do we want to divert funding already allocated to private schools, to instead put into public schools?

    Do I need to suggest diverting the pay-packets for our ministers to help pay for the shortage of funding in public hospitals before John McVeigh gets the point?
    No no, you won't get it back. We're DIVERTING the money. You have to survive like everyone else on newstart with $36 per week, until we've fixed the public hospital system. That may take, um, I'm not sure, 12 months? Yeah, you can do it can't you?
    Thanks, you're a real champ Mister McVeigh!