The federal government is calling on telecommunications carriage service providers to get involved in its Alternative Voice Services Trials program, aimed at testing new ways of delivering voice services in rural and remote Australia.
Late last year, the government kicked off a consultation period on the proposed design of the trials, with the government allocating $2 million in funding for the trials as part of its $220 million Stronger Regional Digital Connectivity package, announced in March 2019.
The initiative came in response to the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review, which noted concerns about the ongoing operation of the high capacity radio concentrator (HCRC) network used to provide voice services in large parts of rural and remote Australia and recommended industry trial alternative voice solutions.
According to Federal Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher, the program aims to encourage competition and assess technology options to deliver improved services for rural and remote communities.
“Alternative voice services could be delivered using existing or new radiocommunications and satellite technologies to deliver improved service quality, greater reliability, more redundancy and greater functionality,” Fletcher said.
The trials will focus on rural and remote areas outside the fixed line footprint of the country’s National Broadband Network builder, NBN Co, including areas serviced by Telstra’s high capacity radio concentrator (HCRC) network.
“This is an opportunity for the telecommunications industry to demonstrate what it can offer consumers and I strongly encourage service providers to come forward and apply,” Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government Mark Coulton said.
“I look forward to chairing a stakeholder reference group, which will provide an important sounding board for matters affecting rural and remote consumers.”
Applications for the trials will be assessed on the solution proposed, the applicants’ capacity to deliver the solution, its cost and overall value for money.
Those wanting to be involved in the trials must either be a carriage service provider, or a consortium with at least one organisation that is a carriage service provider.
The government expects trials to be conducted over a period of 12 months, with all trials to be complete by March 2022.