Australia's 'Mobile Black Spot Programme' to deliver nearly 500 new or upgraded base stations

25 Jun 2015

Australia’s Federal Government has announced that its ‘Mobile Black Spot Programme’ will deliver almost 500 new or upgraded mobile base stations around the country, with Telstra responsible for the bulk of these – 429 – and Vodafone Australia covering the remaining 70. A press release confirming the development called it ‘the most significant one time increase in mobile network coverage to outer metropolitan, regional and remote Australia delivered by a single public funding programme’.

In total the new and upgraded base stations will reportedly provide new handheld coverage to 68,600 square kilometres and new external antenna coverage to over 150,000 square kilometres, while more than 5,700 kilometres of major transport routes will receive new handheld or external antenna coverage. Further, there will be handheld or external antenna coverage to all or part of around 3,000 of the black spot locations nominated by the public as part of the consultation phase of this programme; such a figure represents almost half of the 6,221 locations without service that had originally been nominated. In terms of geographical spread, New South Wales will see the most new or upgraded base stations (144), followed by Western Australia (130), Victoria (110), Queensland (68), Tasmania (31), South Australia (11) and Northern Territory (five). The first base stations funded under the programme will be rolled out before the end of 2015 and the rollout will continue for a three year period.

In total some AUD385 million (USD297 million) will be spent on the base stations covered by the programme, a figure which the authorities said ‘significantly [exceeded] expectations’. The Commonwealth funding commitment of AUD100 million is understood to have been supplemented by funding commitments from the governments of New South Wales (AUD24 million), Victoria (AUD21 million), Queensland (AUD10 million), Western Australia (AUD32 million) and Tasmania (AUD350,000), as well as around AUD1.7 million from local governments, businesses and community organisations. In addition to the Commonwealth and state government funding commitments, significant private sector investment has also been leveraged, with Telstra expected to invest around AUD165 million over three years, while Vodafone Australia will spend approximately AUD20 million over the same period.

Meanwhile, the state has separately announced plans to fund a Mobile Black Spot Programme Round 2, with an allocation of AUD60 million. In addition, 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 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. The Government expects to agree the locations for the 4G mini base stations with Telstra during the second half of 2015, with the rollout of the 4G mini base stations to commence after that.