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
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.
We are working with the mobile carriers to commence the rollout with the first base stations expected to be activated later in 2018. The rollout timing will be available on the mobile carriers’ websites shortly.
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.
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 as the rollout progresses.
The Priority Locations Round locations eligible for funding have already been announced. We are not seeking nominations of other mobile black spot locations 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 main focus in 2018 is to deliver the 867 mobile base stations already committed under the program.
At this point, no further rounds of the program have been announced. However, we encourage the mobile network operators to continue their investment in their regional mobile networks.