BUDGET 2013: Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme extended

Scheme to be reviewed by the end of 2013 to assess whether it is necessary to extend it further

The Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme has been extended to June 30, 2014, to assist Australians living and working in regional and remote areas.

“Many Australians live, work and travel in rural and remote areas, and need a satellite phone to make calls, send messages, and access data,” the Minister for Broadband, Communications, and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said.

“While the costs of satellite phone handsets and calls have gone down, they are still expensive for most Australians.

“By providing $2.5 million to extend the Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme, the Government will continue to assist with the costs of purchasing a satellite handset.

“This will help ensure that all Australians will have access to mobile services, even if they are outside the mobile phone footprint,” Conroy said.

About 24,000 mobile satellite phone subsidies have already been provided through this scheme, helping Australians in regional and remote areas stay in touch with family, friends, colleagues and customers.

The 2011-12 Regional Telecommunications Review found that satellite phones continue to play a valuable role in providing mobile services in remote Australia.

The Government will review the scheme by the end of 2013 to assess whether it is necessary to extend the scheme further. The review will focus on the current demand for the scheme and market developments, including the cost of satellite phone handsets.

“The extension of the scheme shows the Government’s focus on improving access to mobile phone services in rural and regional areas,” Conroy said.

“With the rollout of NBN Co’s fixed wireless network, mobile carriers can use NBN Co’s towers to improve their mobile coverage footprint. NBN Co has already agreed reciprocal access arrangements with Telstra and Optus.

“The Government continues to encourage NBN Co and mobile carriers to take advantage of the fixed wireless network to improve mobile coverage.”