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Network Coverage To Be Expanded Under Mobile Black Spot Program

Network Coverage To Be Expanded Under Mobile Black Spot ProgramThe program will encompass 429 Telstra base stations and 70 Vodafone base stations, providing new handheld coverage to 68,600 square kilometres and new external antenna coverage to over 150,000 square kilometres, the government announced via a statement today.

The Commonwealth has committed $100 million in funding, with the NSW government committing $24 million, Victoria $21 million, Queensland $10 million, Western Australia $32 million and Tasmania $0.35 million, with local governments, businesses and community organisations contributing around $1.7 million.

While Telstra and Vodafone secured funding, Optus missed out on the first round of the program.

Telstra is set to spend $165 million over three years and Vodafone $20 million.

NSW will receive 144 new and upgraded base stations, Victoria 110, Queensland 68, Western Australia 130, South Australia 11, Tasmania 31 and the Northern Territory five.

The locations were chosen following a competitive selection process, with the mobile network operators asked to nominate sites to serve the black spot locations nominated by the public. The base stations will be rolled out before the end of 2015 and the rollout will continue for a three-year period.

In addition to the mobile towers, Telstra will be installing 250 small cells to deliver 4G data services in country towns where suitable Telstra infrastructure is available.

“There will be 200 nationally and another 50 specifically for Queensland as part of our arrangements with the Queensland government, and we are now working with government on how to allocate these small cells,” Telstra networks group managing director Mike Wright wrote via a blog post announcing Telstra’s participation in the program.

“At this stage, the small cell technology can only provide data services, however we are working on implementing voice-over-LTE technology, which will allow customers to make voice calls using 4G.”

The government stated it expects to agree on the locations for the 4G mini-base stations with Telstra during the second half of the year, with the rollout to commence after that.

Vodafone has welcomed the announcement, with Vodafone director of strategy and corporate affairs Dan Lloyd stating the program is “the first step toward a more competitive mobile market in regional areas”.

“This federal funding will allow us to extend our network into more parts of Australia, offering a high-quality and reliable service to customers in regional areas which currently do not have coverage or choice,” Lloyd commented.

“Mobile customers in regional Australia have been disadvantaged for far too long with inadequate coverage and a lack of effective competition. The federal government’s announcement is a great step forward towards giving customers in regional areas better coverage and, often for the first time, the chance to have a choice of mobile provider.”

The government has additionally announced that it will commit $60 million to round two of the program, with the funding to be available over a two-year period from July 1, 2016.