The history-making commitment sees Optus adding to the $3.6 billion-plus it's already poured into its nationwide network over the last three years. In addition to improving coverage and accessibility for regional consumers and businesses, the move will also benefit emergency workers in remote locations - essential in times of disaster.
More 4G, more mobile sites, and stronger coverage
The funds will go towards improving infrastructure in non-metropolitan areas, by expanding existing coverage and building better network performance and resilience. Optus' billion-dollar boost will add 500 new mobile sites across regional and remote Australia, help to complete its current 4G upgrade program (adding 4G capability to over 1800 sites), and add extra 4G capacity to a further 200 sites.
The new investment will also help pay for spectrum licenses in regional areas, and go towards the continued rollout of Optus' satellite small cell technology throughout Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory. The rollout provides mobile voice and data services to Australians in remote locations that are not easily serviced by existing networks.
As great as the investment is for country Australia, it's also a way for Optus to play catch-up with arch-rival telco Telstra. The competing company has long touted its superior regional coverage when compared to both Optus and Vodafone, but a genuine challenge from Optus could see more rural Australians willing to make a switch to a (slightly) more affordable mobile option.
RIP domestic roaming?
Unfortunately, a stronger Optus network is bad news for Vodafone, particularly as the latter's request to piggyback on the regional infrastructure built by both Optus and Telstra was recently shut down by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Vodafone has argued that wholesale domestic roaming - the ability for Vodafone customers to 'roam' on Telstra's rural network - would increase competition and therefore benefit mobile users in regional areas. However, the ACCC evidently vetoed the move, concerned that it could result in Telstra (and Optus) cutting their future investment in regional areas.
With Optus now making a push to pump up its own rural coverage, Vodafone's argument that domestic roaming will cut down on Telstra's regional market share is significantly weakened. Still, it's good news for the many Australians outside the big cities, and the many current Optus subscribers across the country.
Optus' billion-dollar cash injection will take place between now and June of 2018. But if you can't wait that long to get on board with Australia's second-biggest telco, start comparing plans and deals below.