Telcos meet Napthine’s call for metro rail mobile coverage

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Telcos meet Napthine’s call for metro rail mobile coverage

Inner city travellers to finally get coverage in tunnels, stations.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have agreed to build out their mobile networks on Melbourne’s City Loop rail line after being labelled “greedy" by Victorian Premier Dennis Napthine, who refused to include inner city services in a $40 million plan to roll out free wi-fi on V/Line train services.

The state government today announced the country’s three biggest telcos had agreed to partner with the state and the VicTrack rail body to extend mobile coverage to the inner city rail tunnels.

The project will deliver 3G wireless services by the end of the year, and commuters will be able to access 4G services from each of the telcos by the end of 2015.

The network rollout will mean inner city travellers will be able to use voice and data services in the Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and Parliament underground stations and the connecting tunnels.

The Victorian government in April announced it would allocate $40 million from its May budget to improve phone and internet coverage for regional V/Line commuters.

But Napthine revealed the investment would not extend to inner city rail services, with the Premier instead calling on telcos to stump up their own cash before he would consider any partnerships for metropolitan services.

“At the moment I think they're being a bit greedy,” he said at the time.

“We would like them to sharpen their pencils so that they can offer us a good deal for providing some of those services, particularly in the loop.

“We think that there would be so much use of those services that [extending coverage] should actually provide a dividend to the telephone industry, and therefore we think they should make the service available at a fair price."

Optus refused to detail the value of its investment into the project due to “commercial sensitivities”. 

The majority of the project has been funded by VicTrack, with Optus leading the investment from the telco side. The Premier’s office has been contacted for further comment.

The project will use the base station infrastructure installed as part of the state’s $152 million Digital Train Radio System (DTRS) project to facilitate the mobile coverage.

The DTRS replaced the existing end-of-life metropolitan train driver communication Urban Train Radio System (UTRS).

The state added more than 70 new bases stations and towers around the network to support the DTRS, with around 100 base stations now in operation.

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