A new $7.32 million project aims to improve mobile network coverage and connectivity for remote island communities in the Torres Strait.
The Torres Strait 4G project aims to provide high-speed internet access for mobile device users across 14 of the region’s islands by 2021.
The Queensland Government collaborated with Telstra and the Torres Strait Regional Authority to deliver the project.
The project will be funded under a partnership agreement between Telstra, the Queensland Government and the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA).
Telstra will contribute $3.66 million while $2.26 million will be provided by the State Government and TSRA will contribute the remaining $1.4 million.
This is part of a long-term commitment by the Queensland government, Federal Government Department of Agriculture, Telstra and TSRA.
The expansion project is capable of delivering the technology and innovation needed to protect our borders, as well as multiple social, economic, educational, health and community safety outcomes for communities across the region.
It builds on the Queensland Government’s ongoing commitment to improved digital connectivity in the Torres Strait region and is in addition to $410,000 in co-funding to deliver a 4G base station at Erub island in 2018 as part of the Australian Government’s Mobile Black Spot program.
State Member for Cook, Cynthia Lui, an Iamalaig woman from the Kulkalgau Clan of Iama (Yam Island) and the Kulkalgal Tribe of the Torres Strait, said the project would have a huge impact on how we keep in touch and improve education and grow business in the community.
“As digital technology rapidly advances it is vital for everyone to be able to keep pace, especially in remote areas,” Ms Lui said.
“A large barrier between the islands and mainland is technology and communication, so this upgrade to 4G will ensure we can stay connected which will enhance how we work and learn.”
Queensland Ministerial Champion for the Torres Strait, Shannon Fentiman, said the upgraded network will transform the way police, education and health providers work and communicate.
“We know there can be challenges living, learning and doing business in remote areas of our state,” Ms Fentiman said.
“Having access to more reliable and faster internet will support our local communities in the Torres Strait to stay connected and help local businesses to grow.
“It’s fantastic to see this project will create more local jobs as the work commences across the islands over the next two years.”
Queensland Minister for Digital Technology, Mick de Brenni, said the state was responding to the needs of Queenslanders by improving connectivity in the Torres Strait to enable social and economic benefits.
“Every Queenslander, including those in remote and outlying regional areas, deserve to have access to better mobile phone coverage and fast internet,” Mr de Brenni said.
“Currently, many islands across the Torres Strait have patchy coverage, if they do have it at all, while some only have 3G services.
“We’re fixing the connection from the islands to the mainland to deliver high-speed data services to support local businesses and government agencies.”
Telstra Regional General Manager, Rachel Cliffe, said Telstra was proud to be part of this project, that would provide greater connectivity to customers in the Torres Strait.
“Telstra takes its responsibility to bridge the digital divide between the city and remote Australian communities very seriously, which is why we’ve already delivered a number of projects in the Torres Strait to enable customers to access faster fixed line broadband, make mobile calls and access fast wireless data,” Ms Cliffe said.
“This investment is all about digital inclusion and ensuring that no matter where you live in Queensland, you can enjoy the endless opportunities that come from being online.
“We look forward to working with all sectors of the community in the future, to drive greater digital inclusion for all our customers in Far North Queensland and right across this great state.”
Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Chairperson, Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM, said, “We look forward to seeing the outcomes as the Torres Strait Digital Expansion Project delivers improved telecommunications infrastructure for the people and protection of the Torres Strait.
“It is also an important upgrade for our business community, education and health services who will benefit from the improved connectivity.”
Torres Strait Island Regional Council Mayor, Fred Gela, described the upgrade in service as being “critical for the delivery of online government services to local people and ensuring equitable access to the benefits of the knowledge economy”.
“Our region currently has limited access to NBN satellite services for internet connectivity – this project will build considerably on that capacity and deliver significant local benefits to the communities of the Torres Strait,” Cr Gela said.