The Victorian Government is pushing for almost half the federal government funding allocated Australia-wide for sites identified by the public as being mobile coverage black spots.
The state put forward nominations for 2029 areas it considers to be mobile black spots under the federal government’s $100 million initiative to improve inadequate mobile coverage in outer metropolitan, regional and remote Australia.
It is the state with by far the highest number of black spot nominations, reflecting the vocal stance the Napthine government has taken to lobbying the Commonwealth on the issue.
NSW came next with 1780 nominations, while QLD put forward 897. WA submitted 523, South Australia nominated 468 locations, Tasmania 262, and the Northern Territory put forward 25.
The 6000 nominations on the Government’s mobile black spot database will compete for either new or enhanced mobile base stations under the program.
Telstra, Optus and Vodafone will act as judges in a “competitive selection process” alongside unnamed specialist mobile infrastructure providers to select locations from the database where they would build new or improved mobile base stations.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications, Paul Fletcher, reiterated that the Government expected an extra $100 million “at least” would be provided by telcos and bidding parties, including state governments and local councils.
The process is expected to result in up to 300 new mobile phone base stations being constructed around the country.
“It is important to understand that, although 6000 locations have been nominated, this does not mean that there are 6000 locations where a new base station is required,” Fletcher said in a speech today.
“Initial analysis suggests that in many cases the nominated locations are within a few kilometres of another nominated location, meaning that one base station may be able to provide coverage to multiple nominated locations.”
The 6000 nominated locations have not been independently tested to verify claims of a lack of mobile coverage.
“For example, when the Department of Communications compared the nominated locations to the mobile carriers’ existing reported coverage, by asking how many of the nominated locations had at least some coverage in a circle of 10 kilometre radius around the nominated location, it found that over 80 per cent of locations had coverage to more than 30 per cent of that circle,” Fletcher said.
The selection process will begin soon and the locations chosen to receive funding are expected to be announced in the first half of 2015.
The program involves $80 million in public funds specifically aimed at improving mobile coverage along major transport routes, in small communities and disaster-prone locations. A further $20 million will be targeted at black spot locations with “high seasonal demand”.
Updated 3:00pm: to reflect specific state numbers provided by the Communications Department.