MOBILE phone reception is set to improve markedly at Sandy Point, Waratah Bay and Dumbalk. The three local towns are among almost 500 across rural and regional Australia announced as sites for new or improved mobile base stations courtesy of the federal government’s Mobile Black Spot Programme. Many other black spots will get improved mobile reception through handheld or external antenna coverage.
Regional Victoria alone will get 109 of the mobile towers. Construction will take place over the next three years, eliminating communication black spots and boosting the state’s regional economy by an estimated $120 million per year.
“This is a game-changer for our regional and rural communities. With an extra 12,000 households and businesses across regional Victoria to gain mobile coverage, this project will not only connect our communities, it will drive economic growth and support local jobs across the state,” said Victoria’s Minister for Regional Development, Jaala Pulford.
Project allocation for the black spots follows a successful joint bid by the Victorian Government and Telstra to the Commonwealth Government’s $100 million Mobile Black Spot Programme.
The Victorian Government has committed $21 million to the project, working collaboratively with Telstra and the Commonwealth Government to maximise the amount of funding available, generating a project worth $86 million to the state.
Public safety and emergency management were also high priorities in developing the State Government’s submission to the Black Spot Programme.
“This is a great project that will improve communications throughout the regions, providing much needed mobile coverage to small communities and areas prone to natural disasters in Victoria,” said Minister for Emergency Services, Jane Garrett.
“We have worked closely with Emergency Management Victoria to ensure the new towers will provide coverage and enable easier access to emergency information specifically in bushfire-prone areas.”
With 14 towers set to be constructed across his electorate, Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien said the announcement was welcome news for anyone who had experienced dropouts or struggled to get reception at home, in the workplace or on the road.
“Mobile blackspots are a big issue for a number of communities in my electorate, with many constituents telling me that poor mobile coverage is a serious safety concern with regard to farm and road accidents, bushfires, floods and other emergencies.
“Therefore it’s pleasing that these 14 local towers have been announced as part of the Federal Government’s mobile blackspot programme. Great credit to my Federal colleagues Darren Chester and Russell Broadbent for helping deliver on this important commitment.”
Broadbent brings good news to Dumbalk
Mr Broadbent visited Dumbalk last Friday, where the announcement that Dumbalk was to get a new mobile tower was warmly welcomed by the community, in particular Ed and Bev Hanley, who have lobbied long and hard for improved mobile phone coverage for the district.
Eleven new mobile base stations will be built in Mr Broadbent’s electorate of McMillan.
“The electorate of McMillan had 163 black spots nominated by local residents to be eligible for new or improved mobile coverage under the Mobile Black Spot Programme, and today’s announcement will see 119 of those mobile black spots receive coverage,” said Mr Broadbent.
“For many local communities, including Dumbalk, this will be welcome news that helps to alleviate those legitimate safety fears felt by some residents. It’s been a long fight, but a fruitful one in the end.”
In addition to the $100 million in Commonwealth funding for the first stage of the programme, a further $60 million in funding has been announced for Round 2.
Round 2 of the Mobile Black Spot Programme, and Telstra’s commitment to build 200 new 4G mini base stations, will offer further opportunities to meet unmet demand and provide coverage to more locations around regional and remote Australia.
Paul Fletcher, Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull, said that the outcome of the Mobile Black Spot Programme had significantly exceeded expectations.
“Almost 500 new or upgraded mobile base stations will be built across regional and remote Australia, covering a total of 3,000 mobile black spots from the more than 6,000 black spots nominated by the public,” Mr Fletcher said.
“The Mobile Black Spot Programme has successfully leveraged significant co-contributions from state and local governments, mobile carriers and third party organisations, bringing the total funding amount to over $385 million,” he continued. “The programme has delivered substantial competitive benefits, with both Telstra and Vodafone granted funding to build new or upgraded base stations. In addition, the mobile network operator selected to build a base station must give the other mobile network operators the opportunity to co-locate on that base station.
“Today’s announcement to invest an additional $60 million of Commonwealth funds means that the work done under the first round of the programme – in 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 in canvassing local councils and state governments for their support – can be leveraged to allow the next round of funding to be deployed efficiently.”
Under Round 1 of the Mobile Black Spot Programme, a database of 6,221 locations around Australia was developed, being locations nominated by Australians as needing improved mobile coverage. This database was the starting point for the competitive selection process under which the mobile network operators were asked to nominate sites where they would build new or upgraded base stations to serve the black spot locations nominated by the public, and the Government chose from the sites nominated by the mobile network operators using a ranking process specified in the guidelines.
The Government will re-open the database, allowing members of the public to nominate further locations in outer metropolitan, regional and remote Australia which do not have mobile coverage. Nominations can be emailed to [email protected]