The Commonwealth has announced the winners of Round 5A of the mobile blackspot program, with Telstra taking away the lion's share of sites.
The incumbent telco gained 48 of 67 sites chosen, Field Solutions picked up 15, and Optus walked away with four small cell sites in Western Australia. Broken down by state, New South Wales gained 30 sites, Queensland picked up nine, South Australia and Tasmania had two each, Victoria collected 10, and Western Australia gained 14 sites in total.
The supplementary round of Commonwealth funding was opened after only AU$36.8 million of the AU$80 million set aside for round 5 was taken up.
"This announcement brings the total number of base stations funded under our Mobile Black Spot Program to over 1,270 base stations, representing a total investment of over AU$875 million," Minister for Regionalisation, Regional Communications and Regional Education Senator Bridget McKenzie said.
"The 67 base stations funded under Round 5A across regional and remote Australia will collectively deliver over 12,000 square kilometres of new and improved handheld coverage."
The latest round was focused on areas prone to natural disasters such as bushfires, deploying new technologies that support shared coverage from multiple mobile network operators, and improving coverage on regional and remote transport corridors.
A number of highway corridors were among the selections made by the government.
Earlier in the week, Field Solutions said it gained AU$950,000 from the round, and would be trialling domestic roaming with Optus on its network, with work to commence in August and commercial release to happen later in the fiscal year.
Hailing the active neutral host model was industry group Commpete, which said it was an efficient use of taxpayer money.
"We are specifically excited that a challenger brand plays a pivotal role in trialling this alternative network design and delivery method. This will encourage other new entrants and challenger providers and help to deliver more diversity and innovation in the telecommunications industry benefitting consumers and businesses across the country," Commpete chair Michelle Lim said.
"The ideal scenario would be for all network operators to allow MVNOs access to existing infrastructure funded by the black spot program, what means more choice for consumers. Hopefully, a successful neutral host trial will lead operators and regulators in this direction."
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