Vodafone has secured funding for just four base stations in the second round of the federal mobile blackspots program, as Optus reversed its first round fortunes.
Of the 266 new or upgraded base stations to be built under the $60 million round two, Telstra will build 148, Optus 114, and Vodafone the remaining four.
For Optus, this was a large reversal in fortunes compared to the $100 million first round of the scheme where it applied but missed out on a slice of the money.
Vodafone did not hide its disappointment at being unable to secure any significant funding in round two, claiming the scheme had “let down” regional communities and businesses.
Vodafone’s chief strategy officer Dan Lloyd criticised the scheme for handing Telstra “75 percent of sites" under the first two rounds, and alleged other telcos were not opening up their scheme-funded sites to equipment co-location, as is required.
“We remain an enthusiastic supporter of the program and its objectives to provide improved coverage and competition to regional and rural areas, however we do have concerns around the spirit of the program being upheld,” Lloyd said in a statement.
Public money secured under the scheme is intended to partially fund the build of new towers in areas that have been traditionally under-served by telcos; the telcos that secure public funds are also expected to co-contribute from their own pockets.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the government’s $60 million contribution for round two had led to an additional $153 million in co-contributions.
Optus said it would add $36.4 million of its own cash to the $26.4 million it had secured from the government.
It will use the combined funding to build "65 mobile base stations" as well as deploy 49 satellite small cells.
Telstra said it would co-contribute $63.7 million and "build 148 mobile base stations”. It did not reveal how much public funding it had secured.
The biggest winners are the states of Queensland and Western Australia.
One further round of the blackspots scheme is scheduled to commence early next year.