Frequently Asked Questions—MBSP
As part of the Government's $380 million commitment to the Mobile Black Spot Program (the Program) it has announced $160 million for an additional two rounds of the Program. Rounds 5 and 6 will deliver more coverage to regional and remote communities across Australia, including Public Interest Premises.
Rounds 1 and 2
Under Rounds 1 and 2 of the Mobile Black Spot Program, 765 mobile base stations are being deployed across the country to improve mobile coverage in regional and remote Australia. The indicative locations of these base stations can be viewed on the National Map.
Further information on the Mobile Black Spot Program, including lists of the base stations funded under Rounds 1 and 2 of the Program is available on the departments website.
Information about the expected timing of the rollout of the 765 mobile base stations funded under Rounds 1 and 2 of the Program is available on the Optus, Telstra and Vodafone websites:
The rollout sequence is being determined by the mobile carriers based on various factors, including obtaining local government planning approval, landowner agreement where necessary, and access to existing infrastructure, power and backhaul.
These rollout schedules will be regularly updated as the rollout progresses.
There are a number of local factors that can interfere with mobile reception and therefore impact a user's ability to obtain or maintain a mobile phone signal at any given time or place. These factors include mountainous or hilly terrain, buildings (including their internal structure) or other physical obstacles such as trees interrupting the line-of-sight from the mobile base station.
The particular handset used can also affect mobile reception. Each of the mobile phone providers are able to provide advice on the best handsets for local conditions. For example, Telstra uses a 'blue tick' label on the phones it recommends for use in poor coverage areas. Optus uses a 'Top Picks for Regional Coverage' device rating program, enabling consumers to choose mobile phones that will work best on the Optus regional network.
New products to improve mobile reception are regularly released. For example, Telstra has released a 'Smart Antenna' to improve indoor reception on its network, and Wi-Fi calling is available on mobile carriers' networks for use with a compatible device allowing some customers to call and text over a Wi-Fi connection. Another effective way to improve reception is to use an external antenna or in-car kit, particularly if travelling on regional roads. The most appropriate antenna may depend upon the network, and prices can vary. These accessories can be readily obtained from mobile phone shops and recognised dealers.
The mobile network operators and mobile network infrastructure providers 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.
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 Round 1 and Round 2 program guidelines.
The application process awarded ranking points to base stations based on how they performed against the assessment criteria. The Department recommended base stations for funding based 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 mobile network operator/mobile network infrastructure provider 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.
Priority Locations round
The Government announced the outcomes of the Priority Location round of the program on 5 April 2018, including a total of $82.8 million in new investment to address the mobile coverage issues at the priority locations.
All 125 identified priority locations will now receive improved mobile coverage as a result of direct investment from the Government and the mobile carriers.
The rollout of the Priority Locations round has now commenced with the first base station at East Lynne, NSW now on air. Base stations funded under this round are scheduled to be delivered by 30 June 2019. The rollout timing is available on the mobile carriers' websites.
Further information on the Mobile Black Spot Program, including the guidelines and the list of sites under the Priority Locations round of the program, is available on the Mobile Black Spot Program page.
A list of all the priority locations with a description of the solution at each location is available in the 125 eligible priority locations document.
The nominated locations were announced by the Government as part of the Federal Election in 2016. The locations nominated have been identified as areas with poor or no mobile coverage, which had not at that time had their coverage issues resolved under the program.
The rollout sequence for each round of the Mobile Black Spot Program is determined by the mobile network operators based on various factors, including obtaining local government planning approval, landowner agreement where necessary, and access to existing infrastructure, power and backhaul.
The rollout schedules are regularly updated on the carriers' websites as the rollout progresses.
On 18 March 2019, the Minister for Regional Services, Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, announced the outcomes of the Round 4 competitive assessment process. Round 4 of the Program will deliver 180 new mobile base stations (49 Optus and 131 Telstra) to address more coverage issues in regional and remote Australia.
Round 4 of the Program targets regional and remote black spot locations, including Public Interest Premises, across Australia. Mobile Network Operators and Infrastructure Providers are invited to submit proposals to improve mobile coverage at black spot locations in regional and remote Australia.
All applications were competitively assessed on a solution by solution basis. The Round 4 Guidelines published on GrantConnect provide more information on how locations were selected for funding under Round 4.
Round 4 base stations are scheduled to roll out shortly with the first new base stations being activated by the second half of the year. The rollout timing will be made available on the mobile carriers' websites.
73 base stations will specifically target coverage issues at Public Interest Premises, such as tourist sites and emergency services facilities.
A Public Interest Premises is defined as a premises or location that the Program considers is used on a continuing basis for a public interest purpose, and which may include:
- an economic centre
- an emergency services facility
- a health facility
- an educational facility
- an indigenous community organisation
- a local government facility
- a not-for-profit organisation.
Rounds 5 and 6
On 20 March 2019, the Minister for Regional Services, Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, announced that an additional $160 million had been allocated for Rounds 5 and 6 of the Program. This funding forms part of the Government’s $220 million response to the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review.
The Guidelines for Round 5 were released on Grant Connect on 5 April 2019 and the Grant Opportunity (GO2529) was opened for applications. Up to $80 million in funding has been allocated for Round 5. Mobile Network Operators and Infrastructure Providers have until 26 July 2019 to submit their application.
The National Mobile Black Spot Database closed for nominations on 11 October 2018, although locations not on the database can still be funded. New nominations are not being accepted at this time.
The Government has committed $220 million to the Mobile Black Spot Program to invest in telecommunications infrastructure to extend and improve mobile phone coverage and competition across four rounds of the program.
Additionally, we are encouraging the mobile network operators to continue their investment in their regional mobile networks.
Base stations that have been delayed
Base station deployment is a complex process that typically takes between 12 and 18 months to complete. A number of separate phases are involved including site inspection, detailed design, planning approvals, site acquisition, construction and final activation.
As well as the mobile network operator building the base station, a number of external parties are directly and indirectly involved in the deployment process. These other parties include land owners, local communities, local councils, state government departments, power authorities, other mobile network operators, equipment manufacturers and infrastructure providers.
Planning approvals and site acquisition in particular are subject to external processes that are typically outside of the direct control of the mobile network operators.
In some instances, these external factors may impact the delivery timeframe for a base station. For example, additional fauna or flora surveys may be required before local planning approval is granted, or negotiations with land owners may take longer than anticipated.
The mobile network operators are committed to working through issues as they arise. The program remains focused in delivering new coverage as soon as possible.
Base stations that are no longer required or cannot be built
In a small number of cases a base station is no longer required as the coverage that the base station would have provided is now being delivered by one or more other funded base stations nearby.
Reasons why a base station cannot be built vary, but can include difficulty in obtaining planning approval for a base station at the original scheduled location, difficulty reaching agreement with the land owner/s to use the site, as well as unforeseen technical issues with integrating the base station into the existing mobile network.
Before declaring that a base station cannot be built at its scheduled location, the mobile network operator will explore all options to provide new and improved coverage to the location, including investigating alternative sites.
In some cases the carrier has been able to enhance another base station in the area to meet the coverage requirements of the originally planned base station.
If the mobile network operator has exhausted all options and a planned base station cannot be built at its original scheduled location, then funding for the original base station can be used to fund an alternative site.
In this situation, the mobile network operator is required to propose a new site that will offer new handheld mobile coverage to another nominated mobile black spot location that is included on the Government's database of reported mobile black spots.
State government approval of the proposed alternative site is required if the original scheduled site is co-funded by the state.
The following base stations have been approved as alternative sites and will now be funded under the program:
- Bryant Road, (Marchagee East), WA
- Burringurrah, WA
- Cape Hillsborough, QLD
- Charleroi, VIC
- Denbarker, WA
- Goldie, VIC
- Henty Road, Dardanup, WA
- Jiggi, NSW
- Kalannie North, WA
- Kingsford, WA
- Lingara, NT
- Muirs Highway, Dingup, WA
- Parnngurr, WA
- Ravensthorpe North, WA
- Tabulam, NSW
- Tintaldra, VIC
- Traralgon South, VIC
- William Bay, WA
- Wyndham, NSW
The following base stations are no longer required to be built under the Program as one or more funded base stations nearby are now able to provide coverage to the scheduled black spot area:
- Bonalbo B, NSW
- Lower Peacock, NSW
- Ocean Beach, WA
The following base stations cannot be built under the program due to unforeseen technical or site acquisition issues. However, the mobile network operator has been able to enhance coverage from a nearby funded base station to improve coverage to the scheduled black spot area:
- Deepdene, WA
- Koonorigan, NSW
- Lyonville, VIC
- Molyullah, VIC
- Waratah Bay, VIC
The following base stations cannot be built under the program due to unforeseen site acquisition or planning approval issues:
- Aurora Kakadu, NT
- Cundinup, WA
- Danbulla, QLD
- Daniell Siding, WA
- Drysdale River Station, WA
- Grey, WA
- Kevington, VIC
- Laguna, NSW
- Learmonth, WA
- Mount Burnside, WA
- Mount Pingerup, WA
- Mount Tomah, NSW
- Mt Barnett RH, WA
- Red Bluff, WA
- Saint Leonards, VIC
- Salmon Holes, WA
- Tjirrkarli, WA
- Wongawallan, QLD
- Woodwark, QLD