Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

NSW Farmers have called for the Federal Government to take urgent action to ensure phone companies don’t leave thousands of farmers without mobile coverage as the 3G network shutdown progresses.

At present, large parts of NSW have limited or no mobile phone reception, and in some areas the poorer quality but further reaching 3G waves may be the only reception people can get. Vodaphone has already switched off their 3G services, Telstra is currently in the process of turning off 3G, and Optus will begin theirs in September. The frequencies previously used for 3G will all be ‘refarmed’ to provide 4G and 5G services.

Read more about why the 3G network is being turned off in our explainer.

NSW Farmers Rural Affairs Committee Chair Deb Charlton said the shutdown would “spell disaster for many farmers who often work alone and a long way from help”.

“There’s no doubt there will be farmers who run into trouble or have an accident, and will be unable to call for help,” Mrs Charlton said.

“Even with the 3G network in place, there are hundreds of horror stories of accidents occurring on farms or on isolated country roads, where people have not had the mobile coverage they need to contact emergency services and get lifesaving help.

“We have absolutely no confidence that 4G coverage will be available when the 3G network is switched off, and we will only see more of these tragic situations as a result.”

Mrs Charlton urged the Federal Government to urgently work with telecommunications providers to resolve the connectivity challenges faced by farmers and rural communities, and set out a clear plan to secure reliable connectivity moving forward.

“Unless there is a real and concerted focus on local infrastructure upgrades and broader regional telecommunications networks, large tracts of the state with poor mobile coverage will see connectivity get even worse,” Mrs Charlton said.

“The farmers who grow the nation’s food and fibre should not be forced into using expensive satellite phones or have to resort back to pre-war radio connections as their only link to the outside world.

“Connectivity is a critical tool, and in many cases, it’s been the difference between life and death when an accident has occurred in these rural communities.”

Optus has already announced their plans to provide 100% coverage across the nation through a partnership with the Elon Musk owned SpaceX. In the event that an Optus customer cannot access normal 4G or 5G services, they will be able to get satellite-powered service. The Low Earth Orbit satellite service is expected to be online for SMS in late 2024, with calls available at some point in 2025.

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