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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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Data drought: Telstra ready to fight for its dominance

07 Dec 2016

TELSTRA  is engaged in a battle to block rivals from access to its 2.4 million square kilometre mobile phone network.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is running an inquiry into whether Australia’s three mobile network owners — Telstra, Optus and Vodafone — should be forced into commercial roaming agreements to share their mobile tower networks to boost competition.

As it stands, thousands of farmers and rural communities have no choice but to use Telstra’s network, given rivals Optus and Vodafone have networks covering a million square km each.

Three separate networks has led to duplication of towers, an issue farmer groups have criticised as wasteful.

Roaming would mean mobiles would shift seamlessly between Telstra, Vodafone and Optus towers, delivering what many farm and regional groups argue would be greater coverage and competition.

But Telstra has opposed the move, telling investors an ACCC declaration on roaming would drive down its share price and jeopardise investment in its mobile network.

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End Of November Update

07 Dec 2016

Optus again has had a big fortnight with 18 new sites with 13 in NSW alone, as well as 107 site upgrades with NSW and VIC featuring heavily. Of note however was the 11 site proposals in NT seen here which look be Small cell sites with satellite backhaul. These sites are not part of the blackspot program and shows Optus is committed to not only rural but remote Australia as well. Now that satellite bandwidth has been freed by NBN launching their own satellites I think we will see a bunch more of these type sites from Optus.

Vodafone continues its 4G2100 rollout in both TAS and NT predominantly with 87 site upgrades as well as 12 new sites all of which are existing Optus sites and a few of which were in rural areas.

The switch off of 2G service for Telstra seems to have gone smoothly with no reports of anyone finding themselves stranded. Telstra installed 5 new sites as well as upgraded 57 more with the focus being 4G700.

NBN continues its current pace activating 10 new sites, and also managed to upgrade a further 12 sites.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has increased by 1 site. Optus is ahead of Telstra in 4G700 by 1117 sites.

Blackspot Round2 has been announced with Optus finally getting a look in. 266 sites in total were announced with Telstra getting the majority and Vodafone mostly missing out. Optus got 114 sites, quite a few being small cells with satellite backhaul, Telstra getting 148 sites and Vodafone getting 4 sites. Overall between both programs Telstra has 577 sites, Optus 114 and Vodafone 74 clearly the program has been to Telstra's favour.

South Australia requests ‘urgent’ investigation of mobile black-spot funding

05 Dec 2016

Calls for auditor-general to investigate second round of funding

The South Australian government has requested that the auditor-general, Grant Hehir, conduct an “urgent investigation” into the latest funding round of the federal mobile black-spot program.

The federal government last week unveiled the results the second round of the black-spot program, which will help fund 266 new and upgraded mobile base stations.

The state government committed itself to contributing $2 million in co-funding for the second round of the program. Fifteen sites in the state were selected for funding in round two, earmarked for South Australian co-contributions totalling $1.326 million

“I have written to the auditor general requesting a full investigation into this programme as the lack of transparency in deciding sites is of significant concern to the South Australian government,” said South Australia’s science and information economy minister, Kyam Maher.

“Sites we nominated that were not selected by the federal government under this process include high-risk areas such as Wasleys where the Pinery fire hit just one year ago.”

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