The Western Australia Government has earmarked $48.6 million to expand and upgrade mobile and broadband coverage and services in the state’s regions. The investment comes as a part of WA’s 2022-23 Budget, and will also draw in nearly $100 million of Federal and private sector funds.
The new WA Regional Digital Connectivity Program, covering areas from the Kimberley to the south coast, will aim to expand mobile phone coverage and improve the delivery of flexible broadband services to regional businesses.
The WA Government in a statement said that the program will target co-investment from the Federal Government and the private sector for a suite of telecommunications projects, valued at $145 million.
In particular, the program is expected to help bridge the ‘digital divide’ in the regions, with the building of new mobile base stations and fixed wireless infrastructure, as well as upgrades to the capacity and performance of existing telecommunication assets. This also includes the trialling of new technologies aimed at improving connectivity for disadvantaged communities.
The investment is also expected to support access to emergency services, telehealth and a range of other government and business services in regional WA.
Regional Development Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, noted that continued investment in regional telecommunications was necessary to support working from home, homeschooling, telehealth, supply chains and biosecurity demands, given that the reliance on digital connectivity had grown by 50 per cent in WA since the start of the pandemic.
“This initiative is targeting co-investment of more than $2 for every $1 invested by the State Government to ensure regional businesses and communities have access to quality mobile coverage and internet services,” MacTiernan said.
The WA Regional Digital Connectivity Program builds on the Regional Telecommunications Project and the WA Digital Farm Grants Program, which are delivering mobile and fixed wireless broadband coverage across 243,000 square kilometres of the state.