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Vodafone, Telstra in war of words on regional services

10 Dec 2016

Vodafone Hutchison Australia has ramped up its rhetoric against Telstra as regional Australia shapes up as the key battleground for the telcos.

Vodafone, citing research conducted by the Centre for International Economics (CIE), yesterday claimed Telstra was exploiting its market position to fill its coffers by charging regional customers a significant premium.

According to Vodafone, Telstra’s mobile customers in regional areas pay a price premium of $10 per month for prepaid and more than $4 a month for postpaid services.

“The difference in mobile premium is more than twice of that paid by a customer who lives in Sydney,” Vodafone said.

The “Telstra Price Premium” report, commissioned by Vodafone, also pegs the total premium paid by Telstra customers each year at $1.4 billion for mobile services and $1.8bn for fixed services.

However, Telstra was swift to reply, accusing its rival of using “hysterical” rhetoric to gain cheap access to Telstra’s regional network.

According to Telstra, its customers pay a premium because they get a premium service and the lack of choice in regional areas was an indictment on how little Vodafone was willing to invest in its networks.

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Government must stop ignoring mobile call

08 Dec 2016

It’s about time the federal government went all out on improving mobile and data services in rural communities.

The VFF has been urging the government to push more resources into initiatives such as the Mobile Black Spot Program as a way of bridging the digital divide that’s still separating urban and rural communities.

The Productivity Commission this week echoed our calls in its draft report into the Universal Service Obligation (USO), a $297 million a year plan that ensures a standard telephone service is available to all Australians wherever they live.

The USO – which isn’t due to expire until 2032  – funds a voice service predominately provided over Telstra’s copper network and public payphones. Evidently, the USO is outdated and doesn’t reflect the reliance of households and businesses on data and mobile voice services. Take, for instance, the $44 million spent annually on payphone maintenance. That’s only $4 million less than the government allocates to the Black Spot Program, an initiative that builds and upgrades vital telecommunications infrastructure, connecting rural communities.

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Cairns blackspots to get boost after $8m Optus mobile tower plan

08 Dec 2016

THE locations of 15 new ­mobile towers across Cairns will still be subject to community consultation as Optus moves to pour $8 million into improving 4G communications in the city.

But chief executive Allen Lew said yesterday the new towers were not a response to customer complaints about poor coverage throughout the city.

The infrastructure is in addition to 72 new tower locations co-funded by the Commonwealth and State governments, Telstra, Optus and councils announced last week as part of the second round of the national Mobile Black Spot Program.

“It’s more because we feel people are using mobile phones a lot more and we want the best use of the phones, so they can use them in buildings as well as when they're out and about in the Cairns area,” he said.

Mr Lew said the company was still in discussion about the final location for a number of new towers.

Holloways Beach residents were disappointed in July when it was revealed a spot in the Billy Jagar Environmental Reserve was earmarked for that suburb’s new tower, instead of a piece of land on the AFL grounds subleased by the Cairns City Lions and offered by the club.

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Data Drought: States call for inquiry over mobile black spot funding

08 Dec 2016

A MOBILE black spot spat between state and federal governments is opening up over the latest round of funding for telecommunication towers.

Two state governments have written to the Auditor-General to request an investigation of how the Commonwealth allocated round two funding for its Mobile Black Spot Program.

The Federal Government last week released its plan to invest $60 million in 266 new and upgraded mobile base stations, which it claimed would cover 1400 black spots.

Of the 266 towers, 32 were in Victoria and 15 in South Australia, with the majority going to Queensland (76) and Western Australia (78).

According to Victoria’s Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade, Philip Dalidakis, that is not enough.

“Not only is the Turnbull Government short-changing Victorians on transport infrastructure, they’re now taking important funds away from our most disconnected regional communities,” Mr Dalidakis said.

Mr Dalidakis said 31 eligible Victorian sites had been overlooked for round two funding.

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Data Drought: Harvesting’s black spot nightmare

08 Dec 2016

POOR mobile phone reception costs Nullawil farmer Darren Barker money.

The sheep and crop farmer said machinery breakdowns during the critical harvest period needed urgent attention and the inability to call a service department from out in the field meant lost time.

“If there’s no one home on the radio, you have to drive home to get someone out to fix the machine,” he said.

Phil Streeter from O’Connors Farm Machinery in Horsham said it was a common battle with phone reception when he was trying to help farmers.

“Farmers are climbing on to the roof of their tractor to get a signal and you’re only getting every third word because the reception is so bad,” he said.

“If you’re trying to troubleshoot the problem, it means trying different things, so they’re back in the cab and then have to get back up on the roof to call you back to tell you if it has worked or not.


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Nokia, Vodafone on the cusp of LTE deal for Melbourne trains

07 Dec 2016

4G to deliver better signalling for metro rail.

Nokia and Vodafone have entered the final stages of negotiation to ink a deal with the Victorian government for the deployment of LTE networks through the metro rail network.

The primary purpose of the new network will be to improve communications between rail operators by upgrading the existing digital train radio system. But as a side-effect, the installation is also set to improve mobile phone coverage for Melbourne commuters on the Vodafone network.

Nokia and Vodafone first approached the state government back in April 2015 with a pitch to install new 4G equipment across metropolitan rail assets.

Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas announced today that their bid has made it to stage four of the five-stage market-led proposals process, which means the telco pair will now enter exclusive final-stage contract negotiations to bed down the terms of their offer.

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Schoolgirl's Christmas wish granted with MP's promise to fix 'dodgy' internet service

07 Dec 2016

A 10-year-old's push for better internet service at Lake Meran, near Kerang, has resulted in success, after the Federal Government announced a new mobile phone tower for the area.

The new tower is part of Round Two of the government's Mobile Black Spot Program.

Emily English's letter to Member for Mallee Andrew Broad outlined the difficulty she had in completing her homework because of the slow internet.

Emily told ABC Mildura-Swan Hill that it had been her main wish for Christmas to receive better internet service.

She described the current internet service as "dodgy".

"I told him that it was hard to go on to Mathletics, and do research. Sometimes when we research I take photos of the page, and then go back to the camera, instead of staying on the internet," she said.

"When you go on the internet, it sometimes takes 15 minutes to watch a two-minute video."

Emily said her school work required a lot of research.

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Multi-million dollar mobile coverage boost for Queensland’s ‘black spots’

07 Dec 2016

QUEENSLAND communities can look forward to improved mobile phone coverage, with 76 new or upgraded mobile phone base stations announced under a joint Commonwealth-State Government funding arrangement.

The Queensland Government will co-fund 72 tower locations with the Commonwealth Government, Telstra, Optus and councils under Round 2 of the national Mobile Black Spot Program.

A further four locations were successful in being awarded federal funding under the program for Optus satellite small cells.


Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch said the state had committed $15 million in the 2016-17 state budget to further improve mobile coverage throughout Queensland.

“Mobile coverage can be a life or death matter for people dealing with natural disasters but it is also important for everyday life, business, tourism, education and social connection,” Ms Enoch said.

“Providing mobile coverage at key points along remote roads is critical for locals and tourists alike.

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Bushfire-prone Labor areas in SA, including Wasleys, miss out on funding for new mobile phone towers

07 Dec 2016

THE Federal Auditor-General has been asked to investigate why bushfire-prone Labor areas were overlooked for new mobile towers under a black spot program.

The Federal Government last week announced funding for 20 mobile base stations in South Australian Liberal electorates under round-two of a national black spot scheme.

Despite calls after the deadly Pinery bushfires last November for mobile network upgrades in Labor MP Nick Champion’s electorate of Wakefield, the seat missed out on funding.

State Science Minister Kyam Maher has written to federal Auditor-General Grant Hehir asking him to investigate the scheme.

Mr Maher said Wakefield included a large part of the Clare Valley where there was a significant need for mobile towers.

“This included the site Wasleys which the State Government submitted as high priority following the Pinery bushfire,’’ Mr Maher wrote.

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Blackmans Bay residents voice Optus phone tower concerns

07 Dec 2016

BLACKMANS Bay residents are opposing a planned Optus phone tower, citing concerns about its visual impact and electromagnetic energy emissions.

Optus plans to install a mobile phone base station at Sherbud Oval, which is close to Illawarra Primary School.

The proposal has been assessed as low impact, and does not require Kingborough Council approval because the base station will be attached to a light pole already installed at the oval.

Blackmans Bay resident Gen Featherstone, who estimates the tower will be located about 120m from her front door, said there was widespread community opposition to the tower.

“It’s on a community oval, which is used daily by people and sporting clubs, as well as the school,” Mrs Featherstone said.

“We just think a preventive approach is necessary when you have children.

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