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​NBN Co to triple broadband coverage for rural Australia

NBN Co has announced that demand for broadband in rural Australia has far outstripped what was originally anticipated, and that an extension of the network will be required to better serve Australian users.


The announcements come as the company released its Fixed Wireless and Satellite Review report, which estimates "demand for the NBN from more than 600,000 families, farms and businesses outside Australia's cities by 2021 - up to three times greater than originally anticipated".

While NBN Co originally forecast that 230,000 premises outside the fixed-line footprint (in rural and low-density areas) would be connected by 2021, this figure has now almost tripled to 620,000 following the review.

In order to be able to successfully connect these homes and businesses, NBN Co conceded that it would need to improve construction methods, secure additional radio spectrum in certain urban fringes, extend the reach of its Fibre-to-the-Node (FttN) network to serve 25,000 premises, and "nearly double the number of fixed-wireless base stations from 1,400 to 2,700 to serve 85 per cent more premises".

The expansion to meet the demands of regional Australia will see costs go up by roughly a third, resulting in a total bill of $5.2 billion by 2021 for the fixed-wireless and satellite programs. However, the increased costs will be matched by an increase in revenue -- contributing $1 billion for the period, up from previous estimates of $200 million.

Speaking about the expansion, NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow said the review laid out a number of options to ensure deliver better service to Australians in rural, remote and low-density areas.

"A central aim of the NBN is to ensure all Australians have access to high-speed broadband no matter where they live or work so they can participate in the digital economy," he said.

"In order to meet the higher-than-expected demand for broadband in these areas, the review tells us we need to think smarter about the way we use technology. That way we can meet the needs of those Australians who stand to benefit most from fast, affordable and reliable broadband."