Budget 2018: AU$260m to improve GPS and satellite

Australia will spend AU$160 million to deliver a Satellite-Based Augmentation System, AU$64 million on its National Positioning Infrastructure Capability, and AU$37 million on satellite data access.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian government has announced a AU$260 million investment in global positioning system (GPS) technology and satellite imagery as part of its 2018-19 federal Budget.

Part of the Australian government's mammoth AU$2.4 billion investment in technology and science, the satellite funding will be broken down into AU$160.9 million to deliver a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS); and a AU$64 million investment in the National Positioning Infrastructure Capability (NPIC) to complement SBAS to improve GPS accuracy to up to 3cm.

Lastly, AU$36.9 million will be given to Digital Earth Australia (DEA), a "world-class technology that will give Australian businesses greater access to reliable, standardised satellite data that identifies physical changes to the Australian environment".

"We rely on satellite and GPS technology for just about every aspect of our lives -- from Google Maps on our individual phones through to air traffic control at the busiest airports. More precise technology will make Australian businesses more productive, safer, and more efficient," Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said.

"More accurate GPS will improve productivity by allowing new technology to be created and used across the economy."

According to the government, the satellite investment will improve productivity across the agricultural, construction, transport, aviation, and logistics industries.

"In this Budget, the government will invest AU$224.9 million over four years to provide accurate satellite-based positional, navigation, and timing (PNT) capability which will enhance GPS capability across Australia," the Budget documents said.

"This measure will deliver PNT data with an accuracy of 3 to 5 centimetres for regional and metropolitan areas with mobile phone coverage, and up to 10 centimetres elsewhere."

Improving PNT data will also enable "precision farming techniques" to be used in regional Australia, as well as "navigation on fishing trawlers, and increasing the ease and safety of maritime navigation, especially in congested waters", the government said.

Under Australian Technology and Science Growth Plan: Better GPS for regional Australia, Geoscience Australia will get AU$18.3 million in 2018-19, AU$28.6 million in 2019-20, AU$43 million in 2020-21, and AU$43 million in 2021-22, with related capital from Geoscience Australia of AU$8.1 million in 2018-19, AU$12 million in 2019-20, and AU$7.9 million in 2020-21.

For Australian Technology and Science Growth Plan: Better GPS to support Australian business, Geoscience Australia will then get AU$9.2 million in 2018-19, AU$10.2 million in 2019-20, AU$10.3 million in 2020-21, and AU$10.4 million in 2021-22, along with related capital from Geoscience Australia of AU$2.3 million in 2018-19, AU$7.3 million in 2019-20, AU$9.7 million in 2020-21, and AU$4.6 million in 2021-22.

DEA's platform, meanwhile, will enable access to satellite data that can be used by government, research institutions, businesses, and individuals to build new digital services and products.

"This data can be used to build new digital products and services for commercial purposes, and to interpret and analyse changes to Australia's physical landscape, enabling better understanding of environmental changes, such as coastal erosion, crop growth, and water quality," the government said.

"Access to satellite imagery data has a broad range of applications including assisting farmers to monitor animal grazing patterns and increase the efficiency and utilisation of their land. It can also provide governments with the tools to reduce future flood impacts through improved disaster planning."

For DEA, Geoscience Australia will get AU$11.8 million in 2019-20, AU$12.2 million in 2020-21, and AU$12.8 million in 2021-22, with the government providing AU$12.8 million ongoing each year after this initial funding.

In other telecommunications news from the 2018-19 Budget, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has said it will be using funding during the 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20 financial years to fund the subsea cable between Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands; however, the funding was not for publication due to commercial-in-confidence reasons.

"The government will improve internet access and connectivity in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands by contributing funds for the construction of undersea high speed telecommunications cables," the Budget documents said.

"Improved access to the internet will support both countries' long-term economic trajectories through creating additional jobs and providing businesses with better access to information and markets. It will also provide social benefits, including in education and healthcare.

"The cost of this measure will be met from within the existing Official Development Assistance budget."

The government said it expects to spend AU$911 million in 2017-18, AU$1.45 billion in 2018-19; AU$1.47 billion in 2019-20; AU$1.45 billion in 2020-21; and AU$1.44 billion in 2021-22 on communication general government sector (GGS) accrual expenses.

According to the government, the increase between 2018 and 2020 reflects the commencement of the Regional Broadband Scheme (RBS), which provides funding for the National Broadband Network (NBN) satellite and fixed-wireless services, while the later decrease from 2020 to 2022 "reflects the anticipated completion of projects, phased funding for the Digital Transformation Agency, and the conclusion of the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund in 2020-21".

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