Queensland looks to NBN for service relocation

State government steers from satellite

The Queensland Government has flagged a potential relocation of key state government services to regional centres as a means of maximising the benefits afforded by the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout.

In a discussion paper released for comment last month (PDF), the government flagged a four-year strategic roadmap which would look to changes that would speed up rollout in the state and encourage use of the network through applications.

One of those strategies would involve a “regionalisation strategy”, based on initial feedback gained from the Queensland Growth Management Summit held by the state government in March last year.

“The NBN will provide the technology to improve the delivery of regional services,” the discussion paper reads.

“Enhancements to teleworking and real-time teleconferencing through the NBN will enable the relocation of government offices to regional centres while maintaining effective communication with Brisbane.”

The paper noted the government was yet to identify which regional towns would be earmarked for service headquarters, but that the strategy would likely provide a framework for relocation of services including health and education.

“We intend to work with industry and academia to stimulate the deployment of innovative new digitally-based applications and services for regional areas, which could also help create new business and employment opportunities in regional communities,” the paper reads.

Computerworld Australia sought clarification from the Queensland ICT minister, Simon Finn, on what changes, if any, would be made but did not receive a reply at time of writing.

Satellite a last-ditch option

However, the discussion paper indicated an aversion by the government to satellite portions of the NBN, with the strategy geared to maximise the number of premises served by either the fibre or wireless rollout, “minimising the number of properties served through satellite technology”.

Though technically offering the same 12 megabits per second speed (Mbps) as the fixed wireless aspect of the NBN, satellite has often been regarded as a second-rate technological solution and useful largely for only the most remote premises.

The technology is expected to be used for the remaining three per cent of Australian premises not covered by fibre and wireless portions of the network, including those that fall into the “grey areas” between the two technologies.

NBN Co’s satellite product manager, Oliver Stacey, told Computerworld Australia that the NBN wholesaler was looking to establish guidelines on how often end-user customers could receive the peak speeds, based on criteria formed under the Federal Government’s $324 million Australian Broadband Guarantee.

However, in a forum of satellite industry players held earlier this week, discussion largely centered around the need to communicate the benefits of the technology.

“One of the good things that’s happening as a result of the NBN is that people are talking about telecommunications; it is becoming part of a discussion that wouldn’t normally happen,” said Professor Andrew Dempster, director of research for spatial information systems at the University of New South Wales.

“This is an opportunity for the satellite industry to actually make a case. I think it’s a case that can and should be made.”

Newsat chief executive, Adrian Ballintine, commended the Federal Government for its communication surrounding fibre technologies, but said it hadn’t done enough around the satellite portion of the network.

“Satellite is a very good vehicle for the deployment of social justice - for people who haven’t got it,” he said.

“We’re working with complementary technologies - it’s not so much one is better than the other, some are just fit for purpose for some things.”

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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