Broadband
  • Last updated:
  • 01 May 2020

Long-term vision to improve broadband infrastructure and services comes to fruition

There are many great region-wide programs and initiatives which have contributed to the Sunshine Coast being named a global Top7 Intelligent Community for the second successive year, building on our success as Smart21 community six times in the past seven years.

This first of a series of posts acknowledges the collaboration and ongoing community engagement embodied in our Top7 recognition and the deeper longer lasting effects that will continue to drive outcomes for our region well into the future.

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Broadband deployment and use

In 2000, council embarked on a long-term vision to improve broadband infrastructure and services to the community, recognising that our region was faced with monopolistic prices which were not in parity with Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne.

Council has taken a nimble and responsive approach to opportunities and partnerships to deliver a robust digital economy and broadband connectivity for the community. These early projects, outlined below, are now starting to come to fruition, creating a groundswell of change in the last 12 months since the announcement and construction of the international broadband submarine cable.

Suncoast Broadband project

In 2005, the then Sunshine Coast Regional Organisation of Councils (SunROC) led the Connecting the Coast project, a public-private partnership with Allegro Networks and Mach Technology; part of the Maroochy and Noosa Clever Networks Projects aimed at creating a technological solution to the lack of business grade connectivity and competitive pricing for the region's businesses which were faced with higher regional broadband costs compared to metropolitan areas and capital cities.

This project connected government, local business, educational institutions, health care providers and the general community in partnership. It secured more than $11 million in funding for much-needed new broadband infrastructure, including $4.75 million from the Australian Government under the Clever Networks ISD program and $7.5 million from regional partners Sunshine Coast Council, the University of the Sunshine Coast, Allegro Networks and Mach Technology.

Digital Sunshine Coast Action Plan

Digital Sunshine Coast is a collaborative project hosted by Regional Development Australia Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Coast Council and Noosa Council, in partnership with a large network of organisations and individuals.

The digital economy was identified as a key driver of economic growth in the region. In 2014 Regional Development Australia Sunshine Coast and Sunshine Coast Council representatives met with several major telecommunications organisations to discuss accelerating investment in digital infrastructure, one of the key actions listed in the Digital Sunshine Coast Action Plan – with the number 1 priority being improving digital infrastructure.

Speed it Up campaign

Launched in 2016, this campaign involved the collection of information about business-grade broadband needs to help create a better understanding about the business requirements on the Sunshine Coast. This project was used as a catalyst to attract investment in digital infrastructure in the region, including the international broadband submarine cable.

The report Small business and the internet: What are your options and why should you care? was published in March 2017 to inform small businesses in the region about:

  • the opportunity costs of inadequate broadband and technologies
  • what sort of internet access is available on the Sunshine Coast
  • what actions that can be taken to get affordable, faster and more stable broadband.

Smart data WiFi

The first whole of region Smart City Solution System, Smart WiFi, was activated in March 2016 and has continued to expand. This system replaced a three-year trial WiFi from December 2012 to create a permanent expanded service to our community.

  • The Sunshine Coast free public WiFi network is now available in more than 45 locations with 285 access points, including council’s 8 libraries, Caloundra Art Gallery, 5 holiday caravan parks, Sunshine Coast Airport, 3 Surf Life Saving Clubs, Venue 114, as well as 12 public areas, including parks, beachfront areas/esplanades, and sporting facilities.

This network also serves as an Internet of Things service:

  • During the annual Caloundra Music Festival, vendors have used the free public WiFi to connect their point-of-sale card payment terminals to the internet, resulting in increased speed of payment processing and increased sales.
  • Sunshine Coast Stadium, Venue 114, Caloundra Indoor Sports Stadium and Caloundra Art Gallery have adapted similar technologies to deliver POS over a secure arm of the public WiFi network.

WiFi can also serve as a planning and managing tool through heat mapping and smartphone counting. Using the anonymous data from smartphones, foot fall and volumes of people in areas can be determined and used to inform the demand for increases in services such as waste bin clearing following a day of high use or people movement for events such as Caloundra Music Festival.

Sunshine Coast Council, Chambers of Commerce and local businesses have used Smart WiFi to inform decision making and optimise services to the community:

  • Push event food and beverage offers to the crowd and merchandise marketing promotions at Sunshine Coast Stadium. Council’s analytics engine is maturing to the point of integrating with the public, essentially providing local businesses with usable statistics on people movement, dwell time and repeat visitors.
  • Location analytics from Mooloolaba were used to understand the number of people and how they used this beachside area to inform design and planning for the Mooloolaba Foreshore Redevelopment project. In addition, the data has shown which footpaths and times of day are busiest in this area, allowing council to plan footpath closures and detours to minimise disruption to the public and businesses.

Council’s carrier licence

In 2016, council obtained its own carrier licence to manage and protect its underground fixed communications infrastructure, including pits, pipes, field cabinets and optic fibre and active equipment.

The key for council’s Carrier Licence Business success is its functionality and interaction with the Smart City Framework, which will provide the telecommunication infrastructure to connect people, processes, data and things to make our region more liveable, workable and sustainable.

Council now owns and operates 50km of live optic fibre network in eight urban locations (including the new Maroochydore City Centre) with a further 25km in the pipeline over the next 12-18 months, as well as a 100km duct and pit network.  These eight strategic urban locations have been identified under council’s current 10-year capital works program to enable smart cities to occur.

Regional greenfield agreements

Council and Stockland have entered into a smart city partnership at Aura in Caloundra South, with an initial focus on Baringa which has been designed to showcase a range of smart technologies including underground infrastructure for optic fibre cable. Installing the pits and ducting at this early stage provides for future fibre networks for the region. Baringa is one of several urban locations identified for the design, installation and operation of Smart City telecommunications networks to create Australia’s first Smart Region network.

International broadband submarine cable

During 2010-2017 council gathered feedback and information from national and international sources about the demand for significant infrastructure, the business case that would be required, and what steps we could undertake to attract a major infrastructure investment such as the international broadband submarine cable.

Council is the first government in Australia to secure an investment in an international submarine cable. The Sunshine Coast submarine cable is only the second landing site on the east coast and provides critical infrastructure for Australia, redundancy (disaster recovery solutions), diversity for customers, reduce latency and connect Queensland business and consumers directly to international markets.

The submarine cable came ashore on 23 December 2019 and is undergoing testing and commissioning and scheduled to be in service by mid-2020.

Private telecommunications carriers

  • Our Community Broadband (OCB) provides super-fast broadband to communities suffering from unsatisfactory broadband provision. OCB uses fixed wireless broadband technology to deliver large amounts of data between residences and its Community Distribution Point. Its fixed wireless network is designed to bring speeds as fast, or faster than ADSL2 and National Broadband Network (NBN) connections and can be offered in locations where there is no ADSL2 or NBN broadband available, or there are no available ports.
  • Vine Networks specialises in broadband infrastructure projects for new property developments and has provided services for many landmark developments in our region, including the Sunshine Coast University Hospital residential zone, Sunshine Coast Airport and the new Maroochydore city centre.
  • Torus Networks builds and operates next generation high count backhaul fibre networks, working with governments/mining/energy/data centre/carrier markets to improve their ability to succeed digitally. As part of its ongoing 2020-2021 rollout plans, Torus Networks is in negotiation phase for a backhaul cable build from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast to be built in conjunction with partners and commercial carriers. It will connect many areas of the Sunshine Coast as it travels south as well as interconnect locations at Caboolture and Petrie on the way to Brisbane.

Preparations lead to genuine business-related results

The dynamics of broadband access, pricing, options and competition have changed significantly in the past 12 months since the announcement and construction of the international broadband submarine cable. Council’s intervention in the marketplace to seek international connectivity for not only the region, but across the state of Queensland, is now starting to see the first genuine business-related results stemming from the above preparations over the last two decades:

  • The two largest telecommunications carriers have changed the Sunshine Coast’s status from regional to metropolitan, resulting in 35-40% savings for businesses and providing the opportunity to access equitable internet pricing compared with Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
  • Emergence of small businesses like Vine Networks, a wholesaler competing with the National Broadband Network to deliver benefits to businesses and residential apartment blocks which did not previously have access to wholesale broadband pricing.
  • Torus Networks has committed to building an open access network between Brisbane and Petrie, the location of the University of the Sunshine Coast’s new campus. The plans for the Petrie to Maroochydore link are in negotiation phase with construction planned for 2020. The consortia partners now have access to interim bandwidth until the final piece of open access fibre backhaul is completed – creating the final link in the network. This project will complete a vital backhaul link to Brisbane from the Sunshine Coast, which has traditionally been more expensive compared to the Brisbane-Sydney link.

Our region has experienced strong changes in broadband connectivity and access in the last 12 months and we can expect to see continued growth over next five  years with investment in a proposed data centre and major backhaul planned, providing critical access to the community which hasn’t been available in the past.

Council’s approach is to become a region with a dynamic and vibrant digital ecosystem that allows our economy to continue to grow, enabling it to compete not only domestically, but also internationally.

The Intelligent Community Awards

The Intelligent Community Forum’s annual awards program recognises those communities who are developing inclusive prosperity on a foundation of information and communications technology across six Intelligent Community categories: broadband, knowledge workforce, innovation, digital inclusion, engagement and sustainability. It provides communities with a platform for attracting international attention, stimulating inward investment and building public support for progress.

The Sunshine Coast is now in the running for the prestigious 2020 Intelligent Community of the Year, to be announced in October.

More information

Read more about the region-wide programs and initiatives across the awards' Intelligent Community indicators:

  • Knowledge workforce: creating economic value through knowledge, skills and ability to use information effectively
  • Innovation: creating a culture that engages the entire community in positive change
  • Digital inclusion: providing access to digital technology and connectivity, and offering digital skills training
  • Engagement: building a common understanding of the challenges facing the community and a shared vision for overcoming them
  • Sustainability: improving the quality of life for our community.