The Australian government has announced that 180 more mobile towers will be built for the fourth round of the mobile blackspot program.
Minister for Regional Services Bridget McKenzie said 49 will be built by Optus and 131 by Telstra. Of the 180 total, 73 base stations will specifically target "public interest premises, such as health and emergency services facilities", the government said.
"Today, in the great town of Burrumbuttock at a round one base station, I announced that under round four of the Mobile Black Spot Program there will be 180 communities who will receive new mobile phone coverage," McKenzie tweeted on Monday.
Under the federal government's program, 682 mobile sites have been activated as of March 15. All base stations under the first three rounds will be operational by June 30, 2019, the government said, while round four base stations will be live by June 30, 2020.
"The rollout is expected to commence shortly, with the first new base stations being activated by the second half of the year," the Communications Department said.
"The locations of round four base stations will be published shortly."
The Rural Regional and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) welcomed the department's announcement, calling regional telecommunications access "vital".
"The Mobile Black Spot Program has been instrumental in making real change to these communities, with more than 1,000 mobile base stations designated to be built, expanding mobile coverage across the regions," the RRRCC said.
The federal government opened up round four of the mobile blackspot program for applications in October, with the Coalition emphasising that natural disaster-prone areas would gain access to more reliable network coverage.
According to McKenzie, the government was also looking to increase mobile coverage for farmers and regional businesses under the AU$25 million fourth round of the program.
"Round four will include public interest premises (PIPs)," the department said at the time.
"PIPs include economic centres, emergency service facilities, local government facilities, health and educational facilities, Indigenous community organisations, and not-for-profit organisations."
In April last year, the government had revealed which telcos would receive a portion of the AU$60 million funding under round three -- the so-called "priority locations" round -- with Telstra being designated 89 locations across the nation, Optus receiving 12, and Vodafone Australia one. The first site for round three went live in June.
Vodafone Australia, meanwhile, built out just four mobile base stations under round two after being responsible for 70 during round one of the program.
NSW will be providing AU$8.25 million in funding to target 21 mobile blackspots in regional areas across the state, signing on Optus and Telstra to build out the sites.
Mobile operators can now apply for a slice of the AU$25 million funding under the fourth round of the Australian government's mobile blackspots program.
Shadow Regional Comms Minister Stephen Jones said Labor will look to better mobile coverage info from telcos and more collaboration with state and local governments, with more funding to be allocated to the mobile blackspots program if elected.
Telstra has switched on the first of the 89 'priority' mobile blackspot base stations it will be delivering across Australia under the government's third round of the program.