NBN Co, Concerotel and Zetifi have been selected to deliver the first 510 trials under the government's $2 million alternative voice services trials (AVST) program.
The three grant recipients were revealed on Friday, with the first trials promising to bring improved voice services to remote and regional Australia slated to begin in July.
The trials, which will include a low band fixed wireless solution, will take place across NBN Co’s fixed wireless and satellite networks, as well as Telstra’s high capacity radio concentrator (HCRC) network.
Minister for regional communications Mark Coulton said the trials were about “identifying new options to deliver voice calls in remote areas” and would require testing across a range of localities.
“Ensuring that rural Australians have access to robust and resilient phone services is a priority for the Federal Government, which is why we are funding these trials to test what will and won’t work for remote communities,” he said.
According to the government, NBN Co, Concerotel and Zetifi will cover different technology aspects of the trials with each playing to their strengths.
NBN Co is expected to deliver 260 trial voice services across Australia. This will also include tapping into its fixed wireless and satellite networks plus trialling a low band fixed wireless solution.
Queensland-based telco Concerotel will deliver up to 200 trial voice services in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Norfolk Island, providing better VOIP services to mobile phones dependent on satellite links.
NSW-based wireless network supplier Zetifi will deliver up to 50 trial voice services to provide improved Wi-Fi calling for farms in rural and remote areas of NSW and northern Victoria.
Coulton also called for more participants to join the trials which opened applications in August 2020.
The AVST program was announced in response to the 2018 regional telecommunications independent review.
The report called for better digital inclusion of remote Australia and improved voice services in rural and remote areas, particularly for part of the country served by the HCRC network.
Under the trials, consumers have been told not to expect any change to their current fixed voice services and will remain connected until better alternatives are found, the government said.
Copper or high capacity radio concentrator service will also remain connected until better replacements are found.
“The trials are a great opportunity for new players to demonstrate new ways to provide better voice services, more in line with changing consumer needs particularly for greater mobility,” communications minister Paul Fletcher said.
Further grants are expected to be announced in the coming months.