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Telstra, Vodafone reveal mobile blackspots rollout schedule

Telstra and Vodafone have switched on almost 20 mobile base stations so far as part of the government's blackspots program, and have revealed which sites are next.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Telstra and Vodafone have published their rollout schedules for the Australian government's mobile blackspots program, revealing the 78 locations that will be constructed and switched on by the end of July.

"Behind the scenes, there has been significant work occurring in design planning, community consultations, the formulation and development of planning applications, and working with local councils to get the best outcome for everybody," Telstra group managing director for Networks Mike Wright said.

"None of this happens overnight, but it is happening and we are working as fast as we can to deliver on our commitments to these towns and communities."

For Telstra, Acacia Hills, Tasmania, will be complete in March 2016, while Bodalla, New South Wales; Carapook, Victoria; and Carlisle River, Victoria, will be completed by April.

Blaxlands Ridge, NSW, and Victoria areas Sandy Point, Sheep Hills, and Tatong will be completed in May.

By the end of June, Coalstoun Lakes, Crows Nest, Greenvale, Kin Kin, Mount Mee, Mulgildie, Speewah, Toobeah, and Woolooga, Queensland, will be completed, along with Araluen, Bogee, Clunes, Darbys Falls, Hernani, Hillgrove, Lue, Nethercote, Sherwood, Warroo, Wherrol Flat, and Woolomin, NSW; Blackheath, Gormandale, Kadnook, Lalbert, Patchewollock, Powers Creek, and Wombelano, Victoria; East Yuna, Ferguson Valley, Grass Valley, Kununoppin, Minilya, Nabawa, Naraling, South Yuna, and West River, Western Australia; and Curramulka, South Australia.

In December, Telstra switched on its first mobile blackspot cell towers in Marlborough and Quilpie, Queensland, as well as in Brassi and Palinyewah, NSW, and Blackwood and Werrimull, Victoria.

January saw Telstra activate blackspot cell towers in Burnett Highway, Clarke Creek, Eukey, Eulo, and Forsayth, Queensland, with Austins Hill/ Mirboo East, Benambra, and Pigeon Ponds in Victoria also completed at this time.

For February, Boonah Rathdowney Road between Boonah and Rathdowney in Queensland was completed, along with Cobbitty and Colo Heights in NSW, and Ajana in Western Australia.

Vodafone, meanwhile, 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.

"We believe the Mobile Black Spot Programme is a great way to encourage competition and choice of mobile provider, which is something many Australians in regional and rural areas have never experienced," said Vodafone chief strategy officer Dan Lloyd.

"We successfully bid for 70 sites throughout Australia as part of the program, and these sites, along with other considerable network investments, have put us in a position to offer a serious alternative for regional mobile customers."

Vodafone switched on its own first cell tower at White Rock Wind Farm near Glen Innes, in the New England region of NSW, in December.

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.

In total, Telstra will build out 429 cell towers, while Vodafone builds out 70, with the full rollout to be completed within three years.

Telstra is also looking to install 250 small cells in yet-to-be-determined locations across Australia in order to provide small towns with 4G services where Telstra infrastructure is available.

"It builds upon significant investment already undertaken by Telstra to expand and upgrade our wireless networks for the long term," Wright said in December.

"In total, over three years to June 2017, we expect to have invested more than AU$5 billion into Telstra's mobile network."

Telstra itself has invested AU$165 million into the mobile blackspot program.

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

The funding will be used by telcos to build mobile base stations in rural Australia, with locations to be nominated by mid-January.

"The Commonwealth government has committed AU$60 million to provide new or upgraded mobile coverage to black spots in regional and remote Australia under Round 2 of the mobile blackspot program, and we're calling on members of the public to nominate black spots in their local area," Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield said.

"This new funding is on top of the AU$100 million committed to Round 1 of the program, which leveraged co-contributions from mobile operators, state and local governments, and third parties for a total funding envelope of AU$385 million."

Sites nominated by the public will be entered into a national database. The 3,000 of the 6,000 locations that were unsuccessful during Round 1 of the program will also be added to the database.

Telcos can then choose from this list of localities during the "competitive selection process" in early 2016, outlining where they would build or upgrade a base station. These sites will then be subject to a ranking system in accordance with the guidelines supplied by the government.

The government will announce the successful locations at the end of this year.

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