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Telstra wins big on mobile blackspots round three

Telstra has received government funding to build out almost 90 macro and small cell sites across Australia, while Optus has been allocated 12 sites and Vodafone just one.

The Australian government has revealed which telcos will be taking a slice of the AU$60 million funding under round three of the mobile blackspots program, with Telstra being designated 89 locations across the nation.

Under the so-called "priority" round of the mobile blackspots program, Telstra will build out macro base stations in Baldersleigh, Bombala, Brooklyn/Dangar Island, Carwoola, Clyde Mountain, Copeton Dam, Crosslands Reserve, Delegate, Dirnaseer, East Lynne, Fig Tree Hill, Gresford, Grose Vale, Kangaroo Valley, Killcare, Kingstown, Megalong Valley, Nammoona, Ramornie, Sussex Inlet/Wandandian/Bewong, Wantabadgery, Wendoree Park, Yellow Rock, and Yorklea, New South Wales.

In Queensland, Telstra is building out macro base stations in Beachmere, Beerwah, Belmont, Burbank, Cashmere, Cedar Creek, Clermont, Daintree/Cape Tribulation, Dawson Developmental Road, Dayboro, Emu Park, Glass House Mountains, Highvale, Karana Downs, Koumala/Sarina Range, Meringandan, Mount Crosby, Mount Ossa, North Stradbroke Island, Pacific Haven, Palm Island, Poona, Rules Beach, Samford, Taroom, Toolakea, Undullah/Flagstone, Upper Ulam Road, Weipa, Wide Bay Highway, Wonga Beach, Yalboroo, and Yeppoon.

Telstra is also building macro base stations in Ashbourne, Bute/Alford, Gosse/Stokes Bay, Kalangadoo, Kybybolite, and Robertstown, South Australia; Blackstone Heights, Devonport, Gunns Plains, and Musselroe Bay, Tasmania; Beaconsfield Upper, Birregurra, Chum Creek, Gembrook, Gunbower, Guys Hill, Hyland Highway, Katunga, Mount Evelyn, Red Hill, and Shoreham, Victoria; and Bickley, Bullsbrook, Chidlow, Parkerville, Serpentine/Keysbrook, and Swan Valley, Western Australia.

Telstra will also build small cell base stations under the priority locations round in Tathra and Tumut, NSW.

"This represents a total Telstra investment of AU$260 million, more than double the commitment of all the other carriers combined, to bring new coverage to regional and rural communities," Telstra Networks MD Mike Wright said in a Telstra Exchange blog post.

"We are already past the halfway mark of our commitment to delivering more than 650 sites."

Telstra said it has delivered more than 350 base stations and 170 small cells under the mobile blackspot program so far, amounting to a coverage extension of 160,000 square kilometres.

Optus was allocated government funding to build out 12 macro base stations in Fullerton Cove and Mount Seaview, NSW; Alva Beach, Cedar Creek, Donnybrook, Moreton Island, and Russell Island, Queensland; and Beechford/Lefroy, Lachlan, Murdunna, Wilmot, and Yolla, Tasmania.

According to Optus, it received AU$5.5 million in federal government funding for the 12 sites, to which Optus will co-contribute a further AU$2.3 million.

Regulatory and Public Affairs VP Andrew Sheridan told ZDNet that Optus is about halfway through building out its round two sites, with the round three win bringing Optus' total mobile blackspot allocation up to 126 sites.

"Enabling mobile coverage in regional Australia is a key priority for us ... in the last 12 months, we have delivered more than 350 new sites across regional Australia, with ambitious plans for the next 12 months already in place," Sheridan added in a statement.

"Optus is already heavily invested in regional Australia, and this important government program will enable us to reach even more Australians in regional and rural locations around the country."

To serve the priority locations named under round three, Optus is additionally building macro base stations under its own commercial investment in Tathra and Tumut, NSW, Ningi, Queensland, and Lake Clifton, WA; and is performing commercial upgrades on its base stations in Aireys Inlet, Anglesea, and Bellbrae, Victoria.

Telstra is building macro base stations under its own commercial investment in Kyogle, NSW; Gumdale, Jensen, Meldale, New Beith/Greenbank, and North Maclean, Queensland; Sulphur Creek, Tasmania; and Officer, Victoria. Australia's incumbent telco will additionally deploy small cell base stations in Aireys Inlet, Anglesea, and Bellbrae, Victoria.

Both Telstra and Optus are building macro base stations under a commercial investment in Lake Tyers Beach, Victoria; and both Optus and Vodafone Australia are building a macro base station under a commercial investment in Sandstone Point, Queensland.

Vodafone Australia was allocated government funding for just one macro base station in Kalorama, Victoria, under round three, while the Building Better Regions Fund will build a macro base station in Killiecrankie/Palana, Tasmania.

According to Optus, the government is also funding the cost of fitting each new blackspot site with 12-hour battery backup capabilities for the event of a power outage.

The federal government had in November opened the third round of its mobile blackspots program for tender, with 106 "priority" locations named as possibilities for the AU$60 million in funding to extend coverage.

The third round, announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the lead-up to the 2016 federal election in May 2016, is exclusively targeting the list of identified priority locations.

This follows accusations from the Labor opposition party that the government had chosen primarily Coalition electorates for its previous blackspot locations, and a report from the audit office saying the Department of Communications had erred in its selection criteria and ability to evaluate impact and cost effectiveness.

The first round of mobile blackspot funding was opened in December 2014, and the government announced the second round a year later.

Optus is building 114 new mobile sites under round two of the Australian government's mobile blackspots program while Telstra is responsible for 148, down from the 429 it was allocated under round one.

Vodafone Australia will build out just four mobile base stations under round two after being responsible for 70 under round one.

Updated at 4.09pm AEST: Added quotes from Mike Wright

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