Today I was in Toowoomba, in the heart of the Darling Downs region in Queensland, where we have proudly achieved another 5G first – activating the first 5G mobile base station in a regional city in Australia.
It’s an incredibly exciting time as we start expanding 5G coverage to more capital cities and regional centres over the coming months.
It follows our switch on in selected areas on the Gold Coast, cementing our position as the first mobile network in Australia to be 5G ready.
Bringing the transformational technology of 5G to Toowoomba, a regional centre and one of the fastest growing cities in the country, is exciting for the possibilities it will enable in education, health, community services, business and agriculture – all major industry sectors in the local economy. We’re only starting to imagine the possibilities.
For a sector like agriculture, the fibre-like data speeds, low latency and high performance and capacity of 5G open up fantastic opportunities for growth as well as for overcoming some very real challenges.
Toowoomba and the Darling Downs are home to 4300 farms, and an agricultural sector producing almost $4 billion in annual value. It is also the second biggest employer.
Across the country, agriculture is one of our most important industries, with more than 300,000 people working in the sector, generating almost $60 billion in value and growing enough food to feed 80 million people each year.
It is the life blood of much of regional Australia – joining communities together, creating jobs, and sustaining the standard of living for Australian farming families and the businesses and suppliers that work with them.
Telstra recently announced a partnership with the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), along with other state-level peak agricultural groups, to explore the potential for technology to help transform agriculture into an industry worth $100 billion by 2030.
The NFF’s Talking 2030 white paper provides a valuable insight into how agriculture will change in the next decade, and the role of technology – alongside the importance of responding to climate change and new consumer preferences – will be crucial.
While preparing for the future of agriculture is essential, we also need to recognise that with large parts of Australia currently experiencing a significant period of drought, there are urgent and immediate needs in many regional communities.
I am proud that so many Telstra employees have come forward to ask how we can help those in need.
By matching our employees’ donations dollar-for-dollar, creating a Drought Relief Fund to deliver local and immediate support, and making our disaster assistance package available, we are doing what we can to ensure today’s farmers can get through these hard times to enjoy the benefits technology will bring in the future.
More customers, more production, more automation
In the next 30 years, the earth’s population is expected to reach 10 billion, and with that, comes the need to produce more food than all farmers in history have harvested. Demand from our neighbours in Asia will drive huge growth in our potential export capability. One way we are helping to unlock opportunities is the work we are doing to digitise supply chains.
We’ve partnered with businesses like Peloris, based in Woolgoolga on the NSW mid-north coast, who are delivering fresh milk over the 7,000-kilometre distance between Australia and China. They are using innovative systems that allow them to track the quality of their produce in real time and give consumers more peace of mind in the food and drink that they purchase.
The Internet of Things has huge implications for network investment decisions and deployment in regional areas as the role of mobile networks moves beyond providing communications between people to providing connectivity between millions of devices and objects.
Last year, Telstra started offering Category M1 narrowband which allows the connection of devices with medium bit rates. Its use includes all manner of ultra-low-power devices like soil moisture sensors or ingestible health monitoring sensors for livestock to be connected entirely wirelessly to the Telstra mobile network.
The agriculture industry can use this granular, detailed and live-time data to better understand crop and livestock production, potentially changing their farming practices to minimise losses and improve efficiency.
The lucky (connected) country
Australia is known around the world as the lucky country and for good reason. Our natural resources are at the heart of our identity and our prosperity. But it is often said luck is where preparedness meets opportunity.
There is no doubting the growing awareness of technology is putting Australia’s farmers in the best possible place for the many opportunities ahead, and at Telstra we’re excited to be playing our part.