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Queensland patches mobile black spots with new small cell sites

19 May 2017

Telstra mobile network resellers will soon have more to offer regional Queenslanders, in terms of coverage, with the state government set to roll out dozens of new 4G small cell sites.

Regional communities across Queensland are set to see improved mobile phone coverage, with 39 4G small cells to be installed over the next year, Queensland Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy, Leeanne Enoch revealed on 18 may.

The latest rollout of 4G cells are among up to 50 such sites that have been secured through the Queensland Government’s co-funding arrangement with Telstra for round one of the Mobile Black Spot Program.

Each small cell will provide 4G mobile connectivity over a coverage footprint of approximately 200 to 300 metres.

“Mobile phone black spots have been a huge concern for many regional communities, with poor coverage presenting serious safety concerns,” Enoch said.

“Local businesses are also hurting, so with this being Queensland Small Business Week, the new 4G cells will not only boost phone coverage - but confidence levels.

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Mobile blackspot in Federal Budget funds

19 May 2017

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has said the federal Budget has to make ends meet when asked why it contained no new funding for the regional Mobile Blackspot  program.

Mr Joyce referred to the federal government’s investment in the nbn satellites and investment in Australia-wide communications.  

"With any budget you've got to make ends meet. We're always going to bat for better outcomes but we've always got to do it in such a way that over the long-term we have our surplus.” 

My Joyce visited the Yeoval Show with Calare Federal MP Andrew Gee on Tuesday.

The Daily Liberal asked Mr Joyce why no funding was allocated for Stage 4 of the Blackspot progam to fix mobile and data connectivity problems, which were an issue for the Central West and Western NSW.

He said: “We've made sure that 25 new mobile towers have been financed in the seat of Calare, so we provide the finance for the construction of new and upgrading phone towers. We are making sure we roll out a service. Remember the Labor/Green independent alliance never put one out, not one.”

The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition, which is championing better mobile and data connectivity in the regions, said “disappointing” was the best way to describe the funding miss.

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Amaysim and Ovo Mobile debut 70GB data-only mobile plans

18 May 2017

Two Australian challenger telcos have come out with data-only plans to their product line ups.

Amaysim has added two new offerings to its data-only mobile plans which now include 50GB and 70GB plans.

Customers can get the 50GB plan for $65 a month and the 70GB plan for $80 a month. Amaysim has a no-contract approach which allows customers to move from plan to plan without paying any fees. Amaysim's plans run on a 28-day cycle.

Amaysim mobile commercial director Maik Retzlaff said: "The new data-only offerings are perfect for iPads, tablets or dongles, and will provide peace of mind for high data users, whether they’re streaming the latest Netflix release, working on the go, or indulging in some online shopping."

Vaya, the telco owned by Amaysim, offers similar plans that are slightly cheaper. Vaya's 50GB 4G data-only plan costs $59 per month and the 70GB is $79 a month, which were both plans introduced in February.

Vaya dropped its prices on 12-month mobile plans until 30 June by 30 percent. It's Unlimited L with unlimited standard national talk and text plus 3GB of data went from $288 a year, down to $204, or $17 a month.

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Telstra blackspot towers will host few rival antennas

18 May 2017

But 60 percent of Vodafone poles will allow co-location.

Only one out of every ten mobile base stations built under the first round of the mobile blackspots scheme is likely to host antennas from more than one telco, it has been revealed.

iTnews can reveal that Telstra received just 18 expressions of interest for equipment co-location on its 429 round one base stations.

By contrast, Vodafone – which was the only other telco to win a slice of the first round of funding – is “progressing” co-location at 43 of the 70 towers it deployed, a co-location rate of over 60 percent.

The numbers mean Telstra is likely to share just four percent of its federally-funded towers with a second carrier.

The raw numbers appear to add significant weight to accusations levelled by Vodafone – and strongly refuted by Telstra – about issues when trying to co-locate equipment on towers that had been built by its rivals under the blackspots scheme.

Telstra at the time called the allegations “highly unusual” and countered that it had “enabled co-location on 97 percent of the applications we’ve received to design and construct” over the past decade.

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Bonalbo drops off the black spot list

18 May 2017

 Sharon Bird, who works in Bonalbo as the community's pharmacist, said she has already seen the major difference mobile service has made on her business and is excited about how efficient her workplace has become.   

"First thing we were able to do was buy an eftpos machine that uses the 3G network, which is much more reliable than the telephone has been in the past," Mrs Bird said.   

"I can now be on call, so the hospital, the doctor and the community can ring me after hours and I can offer them an after hours service.

"My wholesaler also showed me their app I can now use on my mobile as it has 3G connection, so now we can go round our shelves and do our ordering more efficiently.

"We are just very happy and as soon as it happened there was great excitement in town."  

Telstra Area General Manager Mike Marom said the expansion of mobile coverage in the area was another example of Telstra's ongoing commitment to regional and rural Australia.

"This is a significant moment for our customers in Bonalbo who have had their call answered for better mobile coverage," Mr Marom said. 

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Optus gets $555k of ‘left over’ black spot funds to boost SA mobile coverage

18 May 2017

The South Australian Government has allocated $555,015 to Optus to build and operate four new mobile phone base stations in the State after $2 million it committed towards the federal government’s mobile black spots programme was not fully utilised.

The SA Government says the new base stations will boost mobile phone coverage in black spots in the mid north, south east and Riverland regions of the state.

And, it says it has awarded the funds to Optus to build and operate the four base stations with high safety risk ratings including Wasleys, an area where black spots impacted on safety during the 2015 Pinery bushfire, Sevenhill in the Clare Valley, Yahl near Mount Gambier and Blanchetown in the Riverland.

According to the government, the base stations will ensure around 2100 residents, schools and businesses within a 10-km radius of the towers will have increased 4G coverage, with better call experiences and faster, more reliable mobile internet use.

The four sites have been chosen based on a range of factors including safety concerns, particularly with respect to high bushfire risk areas.

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New Telstra tower improves mobile reception for Winmalee residents

16 May 2017

Springwood and Winmalee Telstra customers should start enjoying improved mobile coverage after a new telephone tower became operational this month.

Local politicians and Telstra representatives inspected the new tower at Summerhayes Park on Friday.

Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman said Winmalee residents had waited a long time for the development.

“Council and Telstra should be congratulated for working through some challenging issues,” she said.

These included finding a site that met Telstra’s and the local community’s needs, as well as negotiating to lease the land from Blue Mountains City Council.

“We had quite lengthy negotiations over the leasing and the location and we’re really pleased it’s come to this now,” said Ward 3 Cr Mick Fell.

“We’ll have much better coverage… People will hopefully notice the difference and it will make the area safer in times of natural emergencies.”

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Blackspot in budget | Survey

16 May 2017

The communications coalition championing better services for regional Australia will push for funding for the Mobile Blackspot program that was left out of the federal Budget.

The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition said “disappointing” was the best way to describe the funding miss for the program’s fourth stage.

The coalition’s members include the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), the Country Women’s Association of NSW and Cotton Australia.

It was formed last year to fight for better mobile phone and data connectivity.

The Budget disclosed there would be no new money for the Mobile Blackspot program past the next financial year.

NFF rural affairs manager Mark Harvey-Sutton said “disappointing” was the best way to describe the issue.

“We were hoping Round 4 would be included in the Budget,” he said.

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Council identifies local mobile black spots

16 May 2017

THREE new mobile phone towers are already on the drawing board as Bathurst Regional Council prepares to chase funding to tackle a new list of local black spots.

Bathurst has received funding under the NSW Government’s Mobile Black Spots Program (MBSP) that will see Telstra towers erected  at Rockley and Trunkey Creek this year while Optus is expected to begin work on a tower at Napoleon Reef in early 2018.

A report to council’s monthly meeting by acting environmental, planning and building services director Richard Denyer said all three locations had been identified through consultation with the local community, businesses and telecommunications providers.

“The MBSP provides the opportunity for telecommunication providers to construct towers outside of major city areas and fringes that would not otherwise be commercially viable,” Mr Denyer wrote.

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Regional Communications Minister defends Federal budget mobile blackspot blackout

13 May 2017

The Federal Government has defended its failure to find any new money in the budget to fix mobile phone blackspots or boost internet services.

Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Regional Communications Fiona Nash said 765 new mobile phone towers would be rolled out under a $220 million initiative, with a firm commitment for another $60 million to be spent on round three once they are finished.

"People have raised that there wasn't extra funding in this budget … quite simply, it'll take a couple of years to get rounds one and two and the 'priority locations' round [of towers] out on the ground and those resources simply aren't there," she said.

"We wouldn't see a new tower even if we'd had funding in this budget for at least a couple of years."

There had been a chorus of rural and regional voices in the lead-up to Tuesday night's budget announcement demanding better internet services, but Ms Nash said the current national broadband network (NBN) rollout program was on track to be completed by 2020.

She said NBN Co had acknowledged its SkyMuster service was not to the standard it should have been but its performance had improved markedly since its launch in September last year.

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