​Vodafone heads for New England with mobile blackspot rollout

Vodafone is adding a total of 26 new sites in the New England region, of which 18 will fall under the government's mobile blackspot program and the other eight will be of the company's own funding.

In its latest update of the federal government's mobile blackspot rollout program, Vodafone has announced it has completed the construction of a mobile base station at Invergowrie near Armidale in north-west New South Wales.

With the new base station, Vodafone will be building a total of 26 new sites in the New England area, 18 of which will be rolled out under the first round of the mobile blackspot program, and an additional eight under Vodafone's own AU$2 million investment.

The 18 sites under the mobile blackspot program are Attunga, Barraba, and Bruxner Highway which will have two sites, Duri, Elsmore, Fossickers Way, Hallsville, Invergowrie, Manilla, Moonbi, Mount Carrington, Oxley Vale, Piallamore, Spring Mountain Road, which has been operational since December 2015, Tamworth, Walcha, and Westdale.

Meanwhile, the additional eight Vodafone-invested sites are Tamworth Showgrounds, South Tamworth, West Tamworth, Taminda, Tamworth Golden Guitar, Rushes Creek, Bendemeer, and Kootingal.

In May, Vodafone announced it was going to invest a total of AU$9 million of its own funding to build out another 32 mobile base stations in NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania in addition to the government's mobile blackspot program. Most of the sites will be operational by the end of 2016, and all will be on-air by the end of 2017.

Vodafone chief technology officer Benoit Hanssen said the new site, which will be operational in early August, is expected to deliver 108 kilometres worth of coverage to more than 400 homes.

"This means people travelling between Invergowrie and Armidale via Bundarra Road will receive reliable service on the Vodafone network," he said.

"Coverage from this site will also reach Saumarez Ponds and Arding, down towards the New England Highway.

"Through this site, we've actually been able to address two locations on the national database of reported mobile black spots at Invergowrie and Arding."

The completion of Invergowrie follows on from when Vodafone switched on its first cell tower at White Rock Wind Farm near Glen Innes, in the New England region last December, and will bring coverage to Manildra, Cargo, Molong, Elsmore, Invergowrie, White Rock Mountain, and Manna Mountain, NSW; Buckland, Bothwell, and Swansea, Tasmania; and Capricorn Highway and Cooyar, Queensland, by the end of July.

The first round of mobile blackspot funding was opened in December 2014, with Telstra and Vodafone securing AU$185 million in government funding to build or upgrade 499 mobile towers across Australia. Vodafone will build out 70 of these mobile towers.

The government announced the second round of its mobile blackspot program last December, providing a further AU$60 million to bring better telecommunications coverage to regional areas.

More recently, the re-elected Coalition government pledged AU$60 million for the third round of the mobile blackspot program that would see the building or upgrading of a further 900 mobile towers.

Vodafone's push into regional telecommunications has seen it expand its 4G network nationwide by purchasing AU$68 million worth of 1800MHz spectrum and refarming its 850MHz spectrum band to bring coverage to regional and metropolitan Queensland, NSW, and the Australian Capital Territory; partner with the Regional Australia Institute and Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on releasing a report on regional telecommunications based on a case study of Northern Inland, NSW, in April; push M2M as an answer for farmers in February; and partner with the National Farmers' Federation to develop an online platform for farmers as part of an effort to "digitally transform" the agriculture industry in December.