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SA election: Liberals promise mobile phone blackspot funding to counter Nick Xenophon

18 Jan 2018

SA Liberal leader Steven Marshall has pledged $10 million to fix mobile phone blackspots if elected in March, as his party stares down an electoral insurgency by Nick Xenophon's SA Best in the Adelaide Hills.

"On a day like today where there is an extreme fire danger, people should be able to contact emergency services and family members," Mr Marshall said.

"Unfortunately we have the situation where there are too many mobile phone blackspots, not just in far remote and regional South Australia but even in places which are very close to the CBD like the Adelaide Hills."

Temperatures around the state have risen above 40 degrees Celsius, and Mr Marshall travelled to the top of Mount Lofty for his announcement, flanked by Morialta MP John Gardner and candidate for Kavel, Dan Cregan.

Mr Marshall denied his announcement was prompted by the emergence of SA Best in key hills seats including Kavel.

"We're the only party which has a positive plan to do something about this problem," the Liberal leader said.

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Mobile network operators urged to prepare for post-NBN world

18 Jan 2018

Mobile network operators should take a leadership role in the inevitable transformation of their industry as mobile and fixed networks slowly move towards bridging the divide between them, a leading telecommunications analyst says.

In a blog post, Paul Budde, arguably Australia's best-known telecommunications analyst, said the mobile telecommunications industry was resisting change, but the players should see the reality and transform themselves, else technology would do it for them.

He said the changes in the fixed telecommunications industry had been the operators being pushed back into the infrastructure utility market. As a result, there had been a drop in their market valuations.

"The major use of mobile phones is in data (95%+) and the use of data will only increase," Budde noted. "That means that in order to be able to handle all of this broadband traffic the underlying backbone network needs to be fibre-based."

Most city-based mobile base stations were linked to fibre optic networks. The advent of 5G would speed up the connection of more towers to fibre as only a fibre network could handle the increased broadband traffic that would result, he observed.

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Investment applauded

18 Jan 2018

Mobile black spots around Benalla will hopefully become a thing of the past following the announcement of an $11 million state government investment designed to address the issue.

Federal Member for Indi Cathy McGowan has given her full support to the funding, which will be used to build new mobile phone towers across regional Victoria.

‘‘The commitment by the Victorian Government to partner with the telecommunications industry to build the towers is welcome,’’ Ms McGowan said.

‘‘Mobile black spots remain a key issue for regional Victoria and I support any commitment that addresses this.’’

The state government has been addressing this issue in stages with several black spots already removed in recent years.

Base station upgrades in Myrrhee and Tatong have been completed in the past 12 months and upgrades at Moyhu, Upper Ryans Creek and Molyullah are expected to be completed by next year.

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Farmers’ call to extend mobile black spots funding

18 Jan 2018

FARMERS are demanding the Federal Government commit $180 million to extend the mobile blackspots program.

The National Farmers’ Federation is calling for three rounds, worth $60 million each, of the program to be funded beyond 2020, when the existing funding runs out.

It argues farmers and rural communities are being held back by inadequate coverage.

The NFF call comes after the Victorian Government withdrew from the Federal Government’s program, accusing the Federal Government of using it to pork-barrel.

Victoria will instead spend $11 million on its own program, in consultation with telecomunications companies.

In its pre-Budget submission, the NFF said mobile coverage was “vital to not only agricultural productivity, but ... the sustainability of our regional communities”.

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Mid January Update

17 Jan 2018

Vodafone has started off the new year with a bit of a bang adding 15 new sites and upgrading a further 195 sites. 7 of the new sites were all located in NSW, and QLD getting 4. The upgrades cantered around 4G2100 as Vodafone tries to deploy everything they have got, and they have a substantial amount of 2100Mhz so it makes sense to re-farm it and throw it at 4G. The upgrades were across most states but with NSW and QLD being the main focus, the only state to miss out was TAS.

Optus continues where it left off for 2017 adding a further 21 sites to its network with NSW, VIC and WA receiving 7, 5 and 4 respectively but most states getting in on the action. Upgrade wise Optus continues its 4G2100 rollout also with 73 sites getting upgrades. There were some sites that also received other bands such as 4G700 and 4G1800 in rural areas but the bulk was 4G2100. The 4G1800 rollout in rural areas has been quite sporadic to date and that indicates it only being used in more congested areas for now.

Telstra after ending the year well has taken a bit of a breather, with 4 new sites and 22 site upgrades. Upgrades consisted mostly of 4G700 and 4G2600 with 4G900 appearing to be put on hold for now. 

TPG added 2 more proposals around the ACT area with one site being in NSW just outside the ACT.

NBN also added 3 new sites as well as 1 new site proposals, as well as 1 site upgrade.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has increased by 1 site as Telstra took its breather. Optus is still ahead of Telstra in 4G700 by 944 sites.

Katunga black spot woes

16 Jan 2018

Katunga residents have branded mobile phone reception in the town as ‘‘shocking’’, ‘‘appalling’’ and ‘‘virtually non-existent’’ as the wait for a tower continues.

The town has experienced poor coverage for a number of years and, despite promises by the Federal Government in the lead-up to the federal election, is still waiting to receive funding following being labelled as a ‘‘priority location’’ more than 18 months ago.

The Victorian Government last week slammed the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program, vowing to pull $11million in funding from the third round of the program and go it alone.

Victorian Innovation and Digital Economy Minister Philip Dalidakis said the program failed to properly consult when choosing sites and there was complete lack of transparency about how sites were chosen, sparking concerns site selections were fuelled by political interests.

However, despite the state government’s decision, Katunga residents aren’t convinced it will improve their situation.

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Regional Victorians back in the digital dark age

16 Jan 2018

THE Victorian Government recently announced it has walked away from the Commonwealth Mobile Black Spot Programme, in favour of its own system.

The $11 million planned for the third round of the Commonwealth program will instead be redirected to a state program.

Victorian Farmers Federation vice president Brett Hosking said the new program is simply moving existing money around, with no new funding commitments for regional Victorians.

“Minister for Innovation Philip Dalidakis has previously claimed that ‘there will always be towns that will not get coverage’,” Mr Hoskin said.

“These comments show an unacceptable attitude towards telecommunications outside metropolitan areas.

“We shouldn’t be shooting for mediocrity.

‘‘We must lift our ambitions.

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Telstra rolls out Narrowband support

13 Jan 2018

Only Australian carrier to offer both NB-IoT and Cat M1 support

Telstra has rolled out support for the NarrowBand IoT standard across major Australian cities and a number of regional towns.

In August last year Telstra revealed it had switched on Cat M1 support across its 4G network. Telstra said today that it is currently the only Australian carrier to support both Cat M1 and NB-IoT.

“We already offer our customers Australia’s largest and fastest mobile network and with our IoT Network now we have added the ability to support millions of new devices like sensors, trackers and alarms operating at very low data rates that can sit inside machines and vehicles, reach deep inside buildings and have a battery life of years rather than hours and days,” Telstra chief operations officer, Robyn Denholm, said in a statement.

“These devices will be the centrepiece of the Internet of Things, which involves enabling everyday objects to send and receive data and will transform the way we all live and work in the years ahead.”

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Minister defends mobile blackspot fix

12 Jan 2018

Regional Communications Minister Bridget McKenzie has defended the federal government's national program to fix mobile phone black spots following a Victorian exit.

The Victorian state Labor government has announced it will go it alone in building mobile phone towers in regional areas after dumping the commonwealth's program.

The state government blamed the decision on the Turnbull government failing to properly consult over site choices and a lack of transparency.

Senator McKenzie defended the national program.

"We made those commitments in the federal election on areas of need for regional communities and I'm really looking forward to making sure those communities get access to that infrastructure ASAP," she told ABC Radio.

She said places like Aireys Inlet and Anglesea in Victoria see an eight-fold increase in population from tourism over summer and the infrastructure that covers 1000 people in the district can't support the influx.

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Lack of extra Telstra tower to blame for poor mobile coverage at Devonport Cup

12 Jan 2018

Punters at the Devonport Cup endured limited mobile coverage at Spreyton Racecourse on Wednesday because Telstra did not set up a transportable mobile base station as in previous years.

Telstra Tasmania Area General Manager Michael Patterson said the infrastructure, known as Cells on Wheels (CoWs), was not used at the venue as it was not considered a priority.

“We boosted the performance of nearby mobile sites to accommodate increased traffic from visitors attending the Devonport Cup, however due to the larger number of people in the one area there may have been some localised congestion,” he said.

“Moving and setting up the infrastructure comes at significant cost, and due to the limited number we have they can’t be used for all events. Our temporary infrastructure also needs to be prioritised for use in the event of a natural disaster.”

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