FEDERAL Member for New England Barnaby Joyce said the Government has released a database of about 6,000 locations in outer metropolitan, regional and remote Australia, which have been nominated by Australians as having inadequate mobile coverage.
Locations on the database are eligible to be the subject of a proposal for a new or enhanced mobile base station under the Abbott Government’s $100 million Mobile Black Spot Programme.
Mr Joyce said 170 submissions had been received identifying numerous sites in the New England Electorate alone and the volume of locations being nominated is evidence of the strong community demand for improved mobile phone coverage in rural and regional Australia.
He said the Government’s $100 million will be allocated through a competitive selection process under which Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, as well as specialist mobile infrastructure providers, will nominate locations – drawn from the 6,000 on the database – where they would build a new or enhanced mobile base station. The process is expected to leverage at least an additional $100 million in investment from bidding parties, state governments and local councils.
“Following this competitive selection process the government expects that between 250 and 300 new mobile phone base stations will be built around the country. It is important to understand that, although 6,000 locations have been nominated, this does not mean that there are 6,000 locations where a new base station is required,” Mr Joyce said.
“Initial analysis suggests that in many cases the nominated locations are within a few kilometres of another nominated location, meaning that one base station may be able to provide coverage to multiple nominated locations.
“In addition, to nominate a location it was not a requirement to give any proof that it does not have coverage – so it is likely that at least some nominated locations actually do have coverage already.
“For example, when the Department of Communications compared the nominated locations to the mobile carriers’ existing reported coverage, by asking how many of the nominated locations had at least some coverage in a circle of 10 kilometre radius around the nominated location, it found that over 80 per cent of locations had coverage to more than 30 per cent of that circle.
“The final determination of the locations to receive funding will come through the competitive selection process, which is designed to allocate the funding to locations which will deliver the greatest benefit in terms of new coverage for the public funding provided,” Mr Joyce said.
The Mobile Black Spot Programme will improve mobile coverage along major transport routes, in small communities and in locations prone to experiencing natural disasters, as well as addressing unique mobile coverage problems such as areas with high seasonal demand.
The Government will shortly begin the competitive selection process, with a view to announcing the locations which have been selected for funding in the first half of 2015. The first base stations funded under the Programme are expected to begin to roll out in the second half of 2015.
The database of mobile black spot locations can be viewed at: www.communications.gov.au/mobile_services/mobile_black_spot_programme/map