The federal government has revealed details of the government's AU$1 billion plan to bring high-speed broadband to 99 percent of the population by 2009.
Communications minister Helen Coonan has confirmed the government will now invest an additional AU$358 million, on top of the AU$600 million (the original Broadband Connect money) already allocated, to improving Australia's broadband coverage in rural areas and suburban blackspots using a new next generation WiMax network.
OPEL, a joint venture between Optus and Elders, has been selected as the successful bidder for the network and has promised to invest its own funds of AU$917 million as well as the almost AU$1 billion in government money in its construction.
It's hoped that the latest phase of the Broadband Connect scheme will help lessen the digital divide between the big cities and the bush. The government said that network will reach nine million new premises including homes in Birdsville, Bedourie and Windorah and "eliminate almost all broadband blackspots in areas such as outer metropolitan Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane". At least 700,000 premises which will be covered by the network previously had no broadband connectivity at all, according to OPEL's estimations.
Australians will be able to expect speeds of up to 12Mbps for a price of between AU$35 and AU$60 per month from the network -- what the government terms "metropolitan comparable" prices. The network will start offering its first services from this September, with the rollout scheduled for completion by the end of June 2009.
The scheme will utilise WiMax to generate the much-needed speed increase, opening 1361 new WiMax sites. A number of exchanges will also be enabled for ADSL2+ for the first time.
OPEL will act as the wholesale provider for the network, reselling services to owners Optus and Elders, as well as rival telcos.
Prime Minister John Howard announced the scheme in his weekly radio address last night, saying a faster broadband network "is a key business, education and community driver. It opens up new opportunities in households, workplaces, small businesses, libraries, schools and universities."
Howard also used the address to criticise Labor's plan for broadband, calling it a "cobbled-together" and "reckless" proposal.