Regional telecommunications provider Field Solutions Group (FSG) has scored funding totalling $7.75 million for various projects under the Federal Government’s Mobile Blackspots Program as it readies to build its regional network.
FSG has received $900,000 from the Federal Government’s Mobile Blackspots Program Round 5a, to trial domestic roaming with Optus and its own 4G Regional Australia Network (RAN).
FSG will build, construct, and operate place-based comprehensive 4G and 5G mobile and broadband networks, with CEO Andrew Roberts adding RAN was designed to be deployed in under serviced areas across rural, regional and remote Australia.
“The roaming trial will allow us to test the ability for these place-based networks to operate in conjunction with the Optus Network nationwide,” he said.
FSG will deliver high speed broadband — symmetric and asymmetric services for agribusiness, business and residents across under serviced areas.
“Digital agriculture is demanding greater levels of connectivity as more advanced and bandwidth heavy applications and services are utilised,” he said.
“Our partnership with Optus ensures national coverage is coupled with the delivery of the Regional Australia Network footprint.”
The project will commence in August 2021, with FSG going to market to review and select technology partners to participate in the trial. FSG anticipates commercial release of services later this financial year.
A further $3.19 million was awarded to FSG to go towards building 15 towers across NSW, Western Australia and Queensland.
“These new sites will deliver a significant benefit for Optus customers in the region. This is another way that, in collaboration with industry partners, we can look at new, cost-effective ways to deploy reliable network coverage in regional Australia,” Optus vice president regulatory and public affairs Andrew Sheridan said.
“We look forward to working with Field Solutions Group to deliver these Optus services including 5G in Talbot, Western Australia.”
Over the next 24 months, FSG’s tower portfolio will exceed 200 towers, including Western Australia in its national footprint.
FSG was also awarded $3.66 million to trial a Neutral Host model along with Optus and help reduce the cost-of-service supply to regional Australia.
The Neutral Host model allows all Australian mobile network operators (MNO) — FSG, Optus, Vodafone and Telstra — to share the same mobile network equipment on a tower and reduce service supply costs to rural, regional, and remote Australia. This is achieved by eliminating each operator's need to build or share a tower and deploy, manage, and maintain their own networks.
“This model is the only sensible way to deliver more services in more places for the same investment,” Roberts said.
The Neutral Host trial will be deployed along Queensland tourist and trucking route the Adventure Way, running between Cunnamulla and Thargomindah.
“The current service coverage gaps pose significant safety challenges for travellers on this popular route. Our planned Neutral Host network will enable all MNOs to service the route without needing to invest in any infrastructure,” he said.
FSG’s Neutral Host product is also ready to be utilised for enabling state and federal public safety mobile broadband programs. These developing programs are designed to extend communications for emergency services organisations across Australia.
For the trials, Optus and FSG will provide mobile services, with negotiations currently underway to introduce a third carrier.
FSG’s MNO services will be launched under the RAN brand in FY22/23.