Regional Australia faces an unprecedented era of innovation – with the potential to change how we live, work, and interact with the wider community. So more than ever, it’s essential that Australia’s telco’s build a foundation for coverage and choice when it comes to mobile services.

The Internet of Things

Fast, reliable reception is crucial for the integration of the Internet of Things (IoT) in regional Australia.

“IoT in essence connects everything we do, from your fridge, to your car, to your heat, to your building management, through to the internet, and allows us as organisations to maximise the benefits available to consumers moving forward.” – Stuart Kelly, General Manager of Enterprise, Vodafone Australia.

At its core, the Internet of Things connects devices – from sensors and alarms all the way to transport and machinery – and allows them to communicate and coordinate with each other. Picture a car telling the house when you are home, so your heating system adjusts for your arrival – then amplify that concept to cities of tens of thousands of people, and millions of connected devices.

Check your device is compatible to the coverage areas you will use. See vodafone.com.au/coverage.

Agriculture, redefined

Smart cars and houses are a booming industry, but according to Mr. Kelly, there is also an enormous potential for regional Australia to benefit from IoT technology: “IoT is important in the connected farm model because it does allow our farmers to be more efficient with the productivity of their farms as well.” Regional Connect has dived deeply into the world of Precision Agriculture (where connected devices can create valuable efficiencies in farming practices), and a slew of companies continue to innovate in the space.

Take MooCall for example – by attaching their sensor to a cow’s tail, it is able to alert farmers when an expecting cow is preparing to give birth. Collars can also be fitted with wireless devices that measure and aggregate information on animal health and the amount of milk being produced. Farming behemoth John Deere launched a similar IoT-capable system, using satellite data, cloud software, and sensors to maximise fertilisation, seeding, and harvesting while reporting soil conditions to HQ. And as the world’s first ‘sheepdog drone’ Shep can use flying robots to monitor conditions kilometers away. Though just a taste, these technologies make the farmer of the future more connected, more flexible, and more informed than ever. But they all rely on the same essentials of connectivity – coverage, choice, and reliability.

A drone flies over a field

 

This is where regional Australia faces its biggest challenge. With some of the lowest population densities in the world, a reliable network requires strategic thinking and strong investment from both the public and private spheres.

“There’s this divide in Australia – if you live in urban areas, you get some of the best communication services in the world. You can access education, your business, whatever you like, at really competitive prices. If you live in regional Australia, for too long you either haven’t had service or you haven’t had a choice.” Dan Lloyd, Chief Strategy Officer, Vodafone Australia.

To overcome this, Vodafone is investing more than $20 million to build 75 sites as part of the Australian Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program. These reception sites have been planned collaboratively with communities, and will roll out over the next two years.

However, more is needed to ensure regional Australia’s competitiveness. It requires a redesign of Australia’s telecommunication funding allocations, where one telco receives almost $300 million to maintain outdated copper phone lines. If this funding were opened up to provide broader mobile coverage, it would provide greater opportunity for regional Australia.

“If we can get those policy and competition settings right, if we can leverage the regulatory regime, leverage NBN, then you could see more investment, more competition, and I think in that scenario, regional Australia has got everything to benefit.” – Dan Lloyd

The Mobile Black Spot Program and reforms to the USO agreement are about driving competition, decreasing monopolies, and making telecommunications networks accessible to all. Communities, businesses, and individuals require communications support to stay connected and drive their business in the way they need to for the future.

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Tim McPhail

Head of Public Policy

Tim McPhail,
Head of Public Policy

As the Regional Connect specialist at Red Wire, Tim is passionate about improving mobile coverage and choice for regional and rural Australia. Tim also advocates for policies to support digital innovation in agriculture.

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