More Australians living in regional and remote New South Wales will benefit from new and improved mobile coverage under Round 5 of the Morrison McCormack Government’s highly successful $380 million Mobile Black Spot Program.
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, and the Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government, the Hon Mark Coulton MP, today announced the locations of 25 new base stations in New South Wales, improving mobile coverage in regional and remote communities.
The new sites include base stations at Lord Howe Island, Laguna and Mullengudgery.
Minister Fletcher said, “The announcement of successful Round 5 locations today brings the total number of base stations in New South Wales being funded under the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program to 290, underlining our ongoing commitment to providing new and improved mobile connectivity to Australians and across the country.”
“Improved mobile connectivity makes it possible for those living in regional New South Wales to stay connected, access education services, conduct business and remain in contact with family and friends. These activities are critical year-round, but particularly important with people responding to the COVID-19 crisis and spending more time at home,” said Minister Fletcher.
Minister Coulton said, “Our Mobile Black Spot program is connecting regional communities and businesses, enabling them to contribute more effectively to our local, regional and national economies.”
Under Round 5, $5.9 million of Commonwealth funding will be invested in mobile infrastructure in New South Wales.
Across the five rounds, the Mobile Black Spot Program has already generated a total investment of over $836 million Australia-wide, including co-contributions from the states and mobile network operators, which is funding the delivery of 1,229 new mobile base stations.
“This very significant investment is allowing much needed mobile services to be delivered in areas where they would otherwise not be commercially viable, with regional, rural and remote Australians being the real winners here,” said Minister Coulton.
The Federal Government is contributing a total of $34 million to Round 5 of the Program, which will deliver total new investment of more than $73 million together with co-contributions from the funding recipients and state governments.
This comes as the Mobile Black Spot Program passes a significant milestone with more than 800 mobile base stations now on air across Australia, meaning more coverage in more rural areas.
“More than 77 per cent of the 1047 base stations funded through the first four rounds of the Program are now complete taking us past the 800 mobile base station milestone. I thank Telstra, Optus and Vodafone for their work in getting us to this point, and importantly for their ongoing commitment to the Program,” Minister Fletcher said.
The Government has allocated funding for all Round 5 proposals that offer value for money to taxpayers and meet the guidelines for the round. Of the $80 million made available, $34 million has been successfully allocated.
The Government intends that the next step in the Mobile Black Spots program will be to conduct a Round 5A, which will be used to test a range of different program designs. Funding for round 5A will be drawn from the unused portion of the funding allocated to Round 5.
The existing program design has served Australia very well. However, with each successive round, the base stations being funded are less economic for the mobile network operators. This fact, and the results from Round 5, suggest that fewer sites are likely to be successfully funded if future rounds are held under the existing program design.
A discussion paper to consult on the different program designs which could be tested under the future Round 5A has been released today.
The paper proposes three main objectives for this round:
- to improve mobile connectivity along major transport corridors;
- to improve mobile connectivity in disaster-prone regions; and
- to test new technologies that support shared mobile coverage in regional areas.
A decision on the timing of Round 5A will be taken once responses to the discussion paper have been received and considered.
Round 5 base stations are expected to roll out shortly with the first new base stations being activated by the end of the year.