182 new base stations are to be installed in locations throughout regional and remote Australia under Round 5 of the $380 million Mobile Black Spot Program.
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher said on Tuesday this latest batch will bring the total number of base stations funded under the Federal Government’s program to 1,229. The Program is supported by co-contributions from state and local governments, mobile network operators, businesses and local communities.
The program web site states the Government’s commitment has generated investment of more than $836 million. This initiative is more than just about being able to make voice calls without have to assume an awkward pose in an awkward place.
“Improved mobile connectivity makes it possible for Australians to stay connected, access education services, conduct business and remain in contact with family and friends. These activities are critical year-round, but particularly important with people responding to the COVID-19 crisis and spending more time at home,” said Minister Fletcher.
Better and more robust mobile coverage is also crucial for communications during bushfire events. As we mentioned back in January, communications networks will be among the many issues to be considered as part of a broader Morrison Government review of the bushfire crisis.
New stations under round 5 will be installed in all states and territories, but WA will enjoy the lion’s share. 63 new base stations will expand access to mobile broadband across Western Australia’s grainbelt regions.
WA Minister for Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan welcomed the announcement.
“WA’s vast landscape demands practical telecommunications solutions that provide mobile connectivity for businesses, residents and visitors throughout the regions,” said the minister.
A full list of the 182 base stations funded under Round 5 can be viewed here (Excel format).
This doesn’t signal the end of the Mobile Black Spot Program, with more base stations in the works. The Government is proposing to run an additional Round 5A of the Program that will use uncommitted Round 5 funds to continue to expand and improve mobile coverage. Feedback from industry and communities on options for round 5A has been invited – a discussion paper and submission guidelines can be found here.
Beyond Round 5A is Round 6, to which $80 million has been committed. Round 6 is expected to kick off after the Round 5A process.