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100 pc mobile coverage in 2 years

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Across the Limestone Coast and throughout Australia, Optus and SpaceX plan to provide 100 per cent mobile coverage by the end of 2025.

The deal means an Optus customer should be able to connect to Starlink’s satellites to get mobile service if an Optus network is not available.

It also means Crs Cameron Grundy, Darren Turner, Crash Downward, Abigail Goodman, Trevor Rayner and Peter Ireland may feel vindicated.

Twice they rejected Telstra’s calls for ratepayer cash to help build 27 mobile towers in the Limestone Coast – including three in the Naracoorte Lucindale Council district – each costing $1.5 million.

It’s called the Limestone Coast Connectivity project. At the council’s May meeting a block of four councillors were in favour of handing over the ratepayer funds – around $140,000.

Cr Tom Dennis moved for the matter to be discussed in confidence and Cr Damien Ross seconded it.

But minutes of the meeting were later published showing Cr Dennis moved for the council to support the Telstra Limestone Coast Connectivity Project in principle, subject to other funding outcomes or options.

Cr Monique Crossling seconded it and Crs Ross and Craig McGuire voted in favour. But they lost the motion 6-4.

Cr McGuire then put forward a similar motion at the June meeting and Cr Ross seconded it.

But Crs Grundy, Turner, Downward, Goodman, Rayner and Ireland all opposed it once again.

Within a fortnight of that meeting, Optus and SpaceX made their announcement.

The rollout between Optus and SpaceX will start next year with Short Message Service (SMS) text messaging.

The satellite coverage relies on a clear line of sight to most of the sky.

Initially, users are expected to find text messaging slower than 4G and 5G networks.

Optus marketing and revenue managing director Matt Williams said the telco was proud to provide mobile coverage to 98.5 per cent of Australia’s population through its existing network.

“However, Australia’s vastness and terrain can make it difficult for any operator to provide mobile coverage everywhere it is needed – especially in remote or hard-to-reach locations,” he said.

“Our work with SpaceX aims to bring the coverage capabilities of satellites direct to compatible mobile handsets without the need for customers to buy additional equipment.

“This partnership builds on our proud history of satellite innovation in Australia.

“This is a truly innovative model for Australia – connecting satellites to standard mobile phones – and a significant evolution beyond the services SpaceX has provided in Australia to date.

“It will create a unique experience for Optus customers.”

According to a statement released last month, through its agreement with SpaceX, Optus will work to expand the reach of customers’ mobile connectivity to include the 60 per cent of Australia’s land mass that currently has no mobile coverage.

“This will be achieved through a phased rollout of SpaceX’s satellite capability, starting with SMS in late 2024, with voice and data to follow in late 2025,” the statement says.

SpaceX’s satellite engineering senior director Sara Spangelo, said the connectivity paired SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation with Optus’s mobile network “to transmit directly to mobile phones across the country”.

“We’re excited to collaborate with Optus and offer a solution to expand coverage and help keep customers connected regardless of where they live or travel,” Dr Spangelo said.

“This new satellite-to-phone coverage will be extensively tested before launch, with further information on its characteristics and accessibility provided closer to availability.”

Both companies pointed out that the service excluded an Australian Quiet Zone in WA, where no service is permitted to be provided, and Remote Offshore Territories and Islands of Australia.

Meanwhile, Apple last month announced users of its iphone 14 stable were satellite ready in emergencies.

That is, the latest iphones can now provide emergency SOS text messages via satellite in areas where mobile and wifi coverage are not available.

“Additionally, if users want to reassure friends and family of their whereabouts while travelling in an area with no cellular or Wi-Fi coverage, they can now open the Find My app and share their location via satellite,” Apple says.

Naracoorte Community News 16 August 2023

This article appeared in the Naracoorte Community News.

Related stories: Telstra’s plan for 27 towers, NLC hangs up on Telstra

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