The grants will go to NBN Co, TPG Telecom, Telstra and Optus, with all four companies now in negotiations with the Government to fund temporary telecommunications facilities and equipment, such as cells on wheels (COWs) and Satellite powered COWs (known as SatCOWs or sometimes SatCATs).
The Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher said the telcos will contribute 50% of the capital costs of the facilities, doubling the capital funding available to deploy more and better facilities.
In addition to the grants, NBN Co has been allocated $1.7 million to purchase five newly designed NBN Road Muster trucks and 12 portable satellite kits, to be delivered before the end of this year, bringing the Government’s total investment in portable communications facilities to $10 million.
“These grants will enhance the capability of telcos to maintain mobile and broadband coverage in areas impacted during natural disasters, allowing Australians to contact family and essential services, and making sure food, water and fuel purchases can occur,” Minister Fletcher said.
“Access to reliable communications before, during and after a natural disaster is critical to the safety of all Australians.”
In May this year, Minister Fletcher announced a $37.1 million Strengthening Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters (STAND) package, with $8.3 million of this allocated to run a competitive grants process to purchase portable communications facilities which can be positioned in bushfire affected areas to allow communications services to be restored quickly.