The Australian Government is improving mobile phone coverage and competition in regional and remote Australia through the Mobile Black Spot Program.

The Australian Government has committed $220 million to the Mobile Black Spot Program to invest in telecommunications infrastructure to improve mobile coverage along major regional transport routes, in small communities and in locations prone to natural disasters.

Together rounds 1 and 2 will deliver almost $600 million in new investment towards improving mobile coverage in regional and remote Australia. This $600 million investment is enabling the delivery of:

  • 765 new and upgrade mobile base stations
  • 86,300 square kilometres of new and upgraded handheld coverage
  • 202,300 square kilometres of new external antenna coverage
  • over 7,600 kilometres new coverage to major transport routes.

Round 1

Round 1 of the Mobile Black Spot Program is already delivering 499 new and upgraded mobile base stations across the country. These base stations will collectively provide:

  • new handheld coverage to 68,600 square kilometres
  • new external antenna coverage to over 150,000 square kilometres of regional Australia
  • new handheld or external antenna coverage to over 5,700 kilometres of major transport routes.

The collective total being invested in the 499 base stations under round 1 of the program is $385 million. The Australian Government funding for round 1 has been supplemented by Telstra ($165 million) and Vodafone ($20 million).

In addition, five state governments have co-contributed towards round 1: New South Wales ($24 million), Victoria ($21 million), Queensland ($10 million), Western Australia ($32 million) and Tasmania ($0.35 million). An additional $1.7 million has been provided by local governments, businesses and community organisations.

Information about Telstra's 429 round 1 base stations is available on its website which is updated regularly. The website shows the status of construction and enables users to search for base stations being rolled out in their area, including those which have been completed to date.

Information about the rollout of all of Vodafone's round 1 base stations is available on its website and shows the expected completion date of the 70 base stations to be funded under round 1, including those which have been completed to date.

The first round 1 base stations commenced rolling out in December 2015. The full rollout of all 499 mobile base stations funded under round 1 is expected to occur over three years. The rollout sequence is being determined by Telstra and Vodafone based on various factors, such as obtaining local government planning approval and landowner agreement where necessary, and/or the ability to access existing infrastructure, power and backhaul.

Round 2

On 1 December 2016, the Australian Government announced that round 2 of the program will deliver 266 new or upgraded mobile base stations across the country.

These mobile base stations will collectively provide:

  • new and upgraded handheld coverage to over 17,700 square kilometres of regional and remote Australia
  • new external antenna coverage to over 52,300 square kilometres
  • new mobile coverage to over 1,900 kilometres of major transport routes

The mobile base stations will also provide additional benefits for customers of each carrier through the extension of that carrier’s network. In addition to the 17,700 square kilometres of totally new handheld coverage, the base stations will provide an estimated additional 22,500 square kilometres of handheld coverage that overlaps with coverage provided by other carriers’ networks.

Round 2 will see a total of $213 million (GST incl.) being invested in new mobile base station infrastructure. The Australian Government funding for round 2 has been supplemented by Telstra ($63.7 million) Optus ($36.4 million) and Vodafone ($1.6 million). In addition, six state governments have co-contributed towards round 2: New South Wales ($8.3 million), Queensland ($13.7 million), South Australia ($1.5 million), Tasmania ($0.35 million), Victoria ($7.9 million) and Western Australia ($21.8 million). An additional $475,000 has been provided by local governments, businesses and community organisations.

The first round 2 base stations are expected to commence rolling out in 2017. The successful applicants (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone) will release indicative rollout schedules on their websites shortly. These schedules will be regularly updated as the rollout progresses.

How the base stations were selected

The carriers were asked to come forward with proposals to build new or upgraded mobile base stations to deliver improved mobile coverage to locations on the Government’s database of reported mobile black spots. The database used for round 2 included over 10,600 reported locations.

Applications were received from Optus, Telstra and Vodafone. All proposed base stations included in the applications were assessed and ranked according to the assessment criteria outlined in the program guidelines.

The applications process awarded ranking points to base stations based on how they performed against the assessment criteria. The department recommended base stations for funding on the assessment against the criteria including value for money. The assessment criteria included consideration of the:

  • expected coverage that each base station would deliver
  • number of premises and the length of major transport routes being covered
  • total cost of the base stations
  • amount of Commonwealth funding being sought
  • amount of funding the carrier was proposing to co‑contribute
  • amount of co-contribution secured from a third party such as a state or local government.

Round 2 of the program also included a new handheld coverage requirement – ten square kilometres for macrocell base stations and five square kilometres for small cells. The Government funded all eligible round 2 base stations that met this requirement.

There were additional base stations that did not meet this coverage requirement but were ranked highly against the assessment criteria. The round 2 guidelines provided the Department with flexibility to consider these base stations if other benefits justified funding.

The Department recommended a number of base stations with smaller new handheld coverage outcomes because these were ranked highly against the criteria and offered benefits to the community. For example:

  • A base station may provide a small amount of coverage but this may be to a small town and may be low cost.
  • A base station may address a known black spot where it is not possible to achieve a large coverage outcome because of the terrain, such as in a valley or in a geographically hilly area..

The Department’s assessment against the program criteria indicated that application of the coverage requirement would in some cases exclude highly ranked base stations. For these reasons, and consistent with the guidelines, these base stations were recommended for funding.

Government Priority Locations

The Australian Government has allocated $60 million to the Mobile Black Spot Program to target specific priority locations*.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a draft decision on 5 May 2017 to not declare wholesale domestic mobile roaming as a result of their Domestic mobile roaming inquiry.

Consultations have therefore now commenced with the mobile carriers and the States on the implementation of the priority locations round of the Program. There will be an approach to market in 2017 to deliver on these commitments, subject to a suitable application by carriers.

*Some of these locations may receive coverage from mobile base stations funded under round 2 of the Program.

Mobile black spot location database

The database of reported mobile black spot locations closed for new nominations on 15 January 2016. The database was provided to the mobile network operators to assist them to prepare their funding proposals for round 2.

Contacts

Mobile Black Spot Program
GPO Box 2154
CANBERRA ACT 2601

Email: mobilecoverage [at] communications.gov.au

Tel: 1800 113 486 (freecall from a landline)

Additional information and resources

Round 1 funded base stations

Round 2 funded base stations

Government Priority Locations

Discussion paper

Documents

Mobile Black Spot Programme—round 2 guidelines—version 1.1

Published

Download PDF (882.37 KB) Download DOC (800.71 KB)
These Guidelines were released by the Department of Communications and the Arts on 26 February 2016 to assist mobile network operators and mobile network infrastructure providers to prepare and submit proposals for funding under Round 2 of the Australian Government’s Mobile Black Spot Programme.

Mobile Black Spot Programme—round 1 guidelines

Published

Download PDF (730.24 KB) Download DOC (134.04 KB)
These Guidelines were released by the Department of Communications on 8 December 2014 to assist mobile network operators and mobile network infrastructure providers to prepare and submit proposals for funding under the Australian Government’s Mobile Black Spot Programme.