The Western Australian Government has claimed success in improving emergency communications at three of the state’s regional towns, with more to come in future.
The $1.2 million Community Emergency Mobile Communications Project formed part of a wider $120 million state government project, first flagged in September last year and aimed at eliminating mobile phone blackspots and overhauling emergency communications networks. Other projects in the initiative included the $39.2 million Regional Mobile Communications Project, geared at improving highway and town-to-town mobile coverage in regional, rural and remote communities, and the $80.3 million Community Safety Network Project.
The emergency communications project last week took out the regional award at the WA Information Technology and Telecommunications Awards (WAITTA), while the regional mobile blackspot program was similarly awarded by the Australian Telecommunications Users Group National at its annual Broadband Awards.
The project has already been rolled out to regional towns Balingup, Kukerin and Quongup, with more to come in future.
The Department of Commerce’s economist and project manager, Joachim Tan, told Computerworld Australia the project had been a win for both the government and locals living in regional areas.
“The government [realised it] could save money by investing in regional infrastructure, and that has not only extended coverage in these areas but it also extends to emergency services,” Tan said. “Emergency services have to be everywhere, and a lack of mobile coverage would have seriously impinged on this.”
The department partnered with Telstra for the project, which was designed to complement the rollout of the National Broadband Network.
“Broadband is essential to the social and economic fabric of regional communities. Our project was [designed in a way] so we wouldn’t be duplicating infrastructure – we saw the NBN as inevitably coming, so focusing on mobile was a way to compliment it.”
Tan said the project was focused more on the infrastructure than the technology of the project during the rollout.
Prior to the rollout of the project, Tan said there was limited mobile phone reception in regional areas of the state – a factor that was making the lives of WA emergency services personnel harder and was identified in a state telecoms needs assessment in 2008.
“It’s about bridging the gap between the state needs and the community needs – in the future, there will be services for this community rather than being left behind.”
Other big winners at the Western Australian IT awards included Greensense View, which picked up the award for the product of the year for its carbon reducing technology.
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