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NBN investing more in regional connectivity than international counterparts, report finds

NBN Co is investing more in regional connectivity across Australia than its international counterparts, according to a new report.

The report from Ovum, commissioned by NBN Co, found almost $7,000 is being invested per household on broadband in regional and rural Australia, or $4.5 billion in total; in second place is the US, where the Connect America Fund is investing around $3,200 per household.

Countries including Ireland, France, and Canada, meanwhile, are spending less than $1,000 per household on similar initiatives. Unlike other nations, Ovum added, Australia has prioritised connecting regional and rural areas.

“Australia is notable as one of the few, non-city state, markets where government broadband objectives extend to 100 per cent of the population. Of the other markets surveyed in our report, all have more limited ambitions for serving the last five most remote per cent of the population than Australia,” the report noted.

In New Zealand, for example, 2.5 percent of properties which were too difficult to reach were excluded from its Rural Broadband Initiative, in the UK upgrades have been rolled out to all but the most challenging five percent, and 10 percent of the Canadian market is not currently listed in plans for upgrades extending to 2021.

According to the report, NBN is also targeting higher minimum speeds than other countries.

“With a minimum available wholesale speed of 25Mbps for all end-users, irrespective of their location or technology platform, Australia has set the bar far higher than seen in equivalent markets such as the United States, the UK, Canada or France.”

The EU has, through its Digital Agenda, set a target of 30Mbps, while Canada is targeting 50Mbps for all premises, however just 90 percent of households will attain this speed by 2021.

The UK, meanwhile, has only committed to at least 24Mbps for 95 percent, with the remaining five percent offered a minimum of 2Mbps, though this may be improved through further funding. The New Zealand government aims to give 99 percent of the country access to at least 50Mbps, with the last one percent to be given access to a speed of at least 10Mbps.

Timed along with the release of the report, NBN stated today its fixed wireless service is now available to more than 500,000 households across Australia, however only 175,000 premises eligible currently have active services.

The fixed wireless service was launched in 2011, and is planned to reach more than 600,000 rural premises by 2020.

When the NBN is fully rolled out, the company stated that 69 percent of Australians living outside the major cities will have access to fixed line services – either fibre to the premises (FTTP) or fibre to the node (FTTN) – while 19 percent will have access to fixed wireless, and the remaining 12 percent to its satellite service.

Data released by the NBN recently found that a total of 4.6 million premises – 1.2 million of them in regional areas – were able to order a service across its network, though just over two million had active connections.

The Ovum report comes as it was revealed NBN Co bought more than 15,000km of copper wire, which Internet Australia chairwoman Anne Hurley told the Herald Sun” is the technology of yesterday.”

coalition of 17 telecommunications and regional-focused interest groups a few months ago came together to lobby the government about improving communications in rural, regional, and remote Australia, with poor speeds and low data limits on the Sky Muster satellite service in particular a key issue. 

The group called for “fair and equitable access” to the satellite services for those with a genuine need for the service, with access reflecting the residential, educational, and business of rural and regional Australia.

Image: Bill Morrow, CEO of NBN Co. Source: NBN Co.