Victoria delivering in-train mobile coverage

All Vlocity trains on the Ballarat, Geelong, Bendigo, Traralgon, and Seymour lines will have mobile boosters by the end of this year, with telcos to activate 35 additional mobile towers.

The Victorian government has said its Regional Rail Connectivity Project (RRCP) has provided around a quarter of the Vlocity train fleet with mobile signal boosters while 35 new mobile towers are being built along the Ballarat, Geelong, Bendigo, Traralgon, and Seymour lines.

The V/Line Vlocity trains will continue being fitted with the boosters each week until all are connected by the end of the year under the AU$18 million RRCP aimed at removing mobile blackspots along the lines.

According to the state government, the project will deliver an additional AU$20 million per year to its economy.

"We're getting on with the job of delivering the mobile coverage that our regional rail passengers deserve," Victorian Minister for Innovation and the Digital Economy Philip Dalidakis said.

"Whether passengers want to do business, browse social media, or call their loved ones to tell them they're on the way home, this project will ensure regional passengers are connected."

The government also pointed towards its free Wi-Fi services in Bendigo and Ballarat, as well as its multimillion-dollar fund for connecting regional communities announced last year as part of the state Budget.

The Victorian government had announced the RRCP a year ago, saying it would partner with Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone Australia to build towers and install reception repeaters on trains, enhancing the signal from mobile towers along the train lines.

At the time, Vodafone said it would be building 23 of the 35 new mobile towers.

Optus then signed a AU$16 million co-funding deal with Victoria in October to build out an additional 25 mobile towers in regional areas to provide around 5,000 premises with mobile coverage by the end of 2019.

Optus said it provided a "majority" of the AU$16 million co-investment, with VP of Regulatory and Public Affairs Andrew Sheridan at the time saying the announcement was an extension of Optus' AU$1 billion commitment to provide coverage to regional areas of the country.

The 25 sites were selected through consultation with the state government.

"Those living in regional Victoria deserve better mobile coverage in their homes, workplaces, and while they travel, and we thank Optus for helping us get on with the job of delivering it," Dalidakis said last year.

According to the Victorian government, the Optus agreement was reached as a result of its state largely missing out on winning any sites in the third round of the federal government's mobile blackspots program.

"The funding comes as Victoria looks set to be short-changed in the latest round of the federal government's mobile blackspot program due largely to a severe lack of consultation," the state government said.

Earlier this month, the Australian government revealed which telcos will be taking a slice of the AU$60 million funding under round three, with Telstra being designated 89 locations across the nation, Optus 12, and Vodafone one.

Under the so-called "priority" round of the mobile blackspots program, Victoria will see macro base stations built by Telstra in Beaconsfield Upper, Birregurra, Chum Creek, Gembrook, Gunbower, Guys Hill, Hyland Highway, Katunga, Mount Evelyn, Red Hill, and Shoreham; a macro base station built by Vodafone in Kalorama; and small cells deployed by Telstra in Aireys Inlet, Anglesea, and Bellbrae, where Optus will additionally perform commercial upgrades on its base stations.

Both Telstra and Optus are building macro base stations under a commercial investment in Lake Tyers Beach, and Telstra is building macro base stations under its own commercial investment in Officer as part of the round.

Victoria withdrew its AU$11 million commitment to the federal mobile blackspots program in January following the perceived slight, instead opting to go it alone.

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