The federal Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts has approved the funding agreement for a new national wireless and wired broadband network with OPEL Networks.
OPEL Networks is a joint venture between Optus and Elders to build a national broadband network using a combination of WiMAX and ADSL technologies across some 638,000 square kilometres and costing $1.9 billion.
In announcing the funding agreement ICT Minister Senator Helen Coonan said high speed broadband is essential to overcome the isolation many people in rural and remote Australia experience.
"The OPEL network will reinvigorate many rural communities and change the way that rural Australians engage with the rest of the world." Coonan said.
According to DCITA, OPEL has started building the new network, which is due for completion by June 2009.
Coonan said the government will independently test the network to ensure that coverage is achieved to "a very high standard", and that the service in rural and regional areas is comparable to metropolitan areas.
Elders and Optus have also entered into a joint venture agreement to contribute assets and investments of more than $900 million to establish OPEL Networks, which will be a wholesale only company.
The new network will consist of 1361 new wireless broadband WiMAX sites, 312 exchanges enabled with ADSL2+, and 15,000km of fibre-optic backhaul.