Frequently Asked Questions—MBSP
As part of the Government's $220 million commitment to the Mobile Black Spot Program it has allocated $60 million to target specific locations already announced by the Government through a Priority Locations round.
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 locations of these base stations can be viewed on the National Map at http://nationalmap.gov.au/#share=s-nsaL9s98RSmRILiOtolyLMPr7Z9.
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 Department of Communications and the Arts' website at www.communications.gov.au/mobile_coverage.
Information about the expected timing of the rollout of the 765 mobile base stations funded under the program is available on Optus, Telstra and Vodafone's websites:
- Optus: www.optus.com.au/shop/mobile/network/mobile-black-spot-program
- Telstra: www.telstra.com/blackspots
- Vodafone: www.vodafone.com.au/red-wire/vodafone-mobile-black-spot-investment.
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 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 has also recently announced their '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 Optus has released an app which allows its customers to receive calls and texts over a Wi-Fi connection. Another effective way to improve reception is to use an external antenna or in-car kit. The most appropriate antenna may depend upon the network, and prices can vary. These accessories can be readily obtained from mobile phone shops and 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 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 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
As part of the Government's commitment to the $220 million Mobile Black Spot Program, $60 million has been allocated to target specific priority locations already announced in 2016.
Following extensive consultation with key stakeholders, the Priority Locations round guidelines have been released and applications are now open. The guidelines, published on GrantConnect, specify the application process and include the specific locations where applicants can seek funding to expand and improve mobile coverage.
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 at www.communications.gov.au/mobile_coverage.
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.
Since the announcement of the Priority Locations round, 19 locations out of the original 125 locations announced have subsequently either had their mobile coverage issues addressed commercially, or are receiving funding to address their mobile coverage issues from another funded program (such as round 2 of the Mobile Black Spot Program, or the Building Better Regions Fund).
Once the application period closes in December 2017, each application will be assessed against criteria as described in the Program Guidelines. An announcement of successful applicants and locations to receive funding is expected to take place in early 2018.
The Priority Locations round is expected to commence rolling out in 2018. Once the outcomes of the round have been announced, more information about the expected timing of the rollout of solutions funded under this round of the program will be available on the successful mobile network operator's websites.
The rollout sequence will be 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 will be regularly updated as the rollout progresses.
An announcement of successful applicants and sites is expected to occur in early 2018. Successful applicants will update their website to include their funded solutions and an expected rollout schedule.
The Priority Locations Round locations eligible for funding have already been announced. Nominations of other mobile black spot locations are therefore not being sought 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.
The commitment to the program includes $60 million to target specific priority locations already announced by the Government. On 22 November 2017, guidelines for the Priority Locations round were released and applications sought from mobile network operators and mobile network infrastructure providers.
For the remainder of 2017, and 2018, the main focus is to deliver the 765 base stations from rounds 1 and 2 of the program and delivering solutions to the remaining 106 priority locations.
At this point, no further rounds of the program have been announced. However, the mobile network operators are being encouraged to continue their investment in their regional mobile networks.