The Abbott Government has confirmed that it will commit $60 million for round two of the Mobile Black Spot Programme, with funding available over a two year period from July 1 next year.
Under the first round of the Mobile Black Spot Programme, a database of 6221 black spot locations around Australia was developed, being locations nominated by Australians as needing improved mobile coverage. The Abbott Government has announced the results of round one of the Mobile Black Spot Programme, with 499 new or upgraded mobile base stations to be provided around Australia – namely 429 Telstra base stations and 70 Vodafone base stations.
Following the outcome of round one of the Mobile Black Spot Programme, there will also be handheld or external antenna coverage to all or part of some 3000 of these locations and many base stations will serve multiple nominated black spot locations.
The total to be invested in new and upgraded base stations under the programme is $385 million.
Those black spot locations which have not received coverage under that round will continue to form part of the database, and this database will again be used in the process of determining locations to receive funding under the second round of the Mobile Black Spot Programme.
As such, round 2 of the programme will see fund investments in telecommunications infrastructure that aim to improve mobile coverage in outer metropolitan, regional and remote Australia.
The programme will work on improving mobile coverage along major transport routes, in small communities and in locations prone to experiencing natural disasters, in addition to addressing mobile coverage problems such as areas with high seasonal demand.
This $60 million commitment has been included in the 2015-16 budget in the ‘Contingency Reserve’.
In addition to the Commonwealth and state government funding commitments, the programme has leveraged investment from telco providers – Telstra will spend $165 million and Vodafone $20 million over the next three years.
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As part of Telstra’s proposal, it will build up to 200 4G mini base stations in locations in small towns around Australia where suitable infrastructure is available, with the locations to be mutually agreed between Telstra and the Government.
These mini base stations will provide mobile data coverage in a radius of around 200-300 metres and will support voice services as the technology for 4G based voice becomes available.
A joint statement from the office of the prime minister, Tony Abbott; minister for communications, Malcolm Turnbull; and parliamentary secretary to the minister for communications, Paul Fletcher, indicated that the announcement to invest an additional $60 million of Commonwealth funds means that the work done under the first round of the Programme can be leveraged to allow the next round of funding to be deployed efficiently.
Some of the work done in round one include: identifying priority locations, engaging with the mobile network operators Telstra, Optus and Vodafone and other industry participants, developing guidelines for a competitive selection process, and canvassing local councils and state governments for their support.
The competitive selection process for round two is expected to commence in 2016, after allowing time for further locations to be nominated by members of the public, and a review of the operation of round one. The list of locations to be funded under round two is expected to be announced by the end of 2016.
“There is strong community demand for improved mobile coverage in regional and remote Australia – but the previous Labor government failed to allocate a single dollar of public money to address this problem.
“By contrast, the Abbott Government is working hard to improve mobile services in regional and remote Australia, and today’s commitment to allocate a further $60 million towards the next round of the Mobile Black Spot Programme shows that this work will continue,” the joint office statement read.