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17 mobile base stations still to come

25 May 2017

The Federal Government's Mobile Black Spot Program rolling in new mobile base stations across the region to significantly improve mobile coverage for the communities.

CASINO North, Ramornie, Yorklea, and Kyogle are the next four regions that are expected to see significantly improved mobile coverage thanks to the Federal Governments Mobile Black Spots Program.

Page MP Kevin Hogan said five of the 22 new mobile base stations in the Northern Rivers have already been built with 17 more to come.

"Five new base stations in our community are already active. With 17 to come online over the next 18 months, mobile phone coverage is going to improve significantly in our region,” Mr Hogan said.

"The areas have been selected because they have been overlooked by mobile network operators due to commercial factors.


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Towering job in fixing black spots

25 May 2017

Regional Communications Minister and deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash has detailed ongoing spending on the Mobile Phone Black Spots Program.

The Daily Liberal reported there had been a cut to the Mobile Phone Black Spots Program in the federal Budget for 2017/18.

But Senator Nash said no funding has been cut from the program.

“The program is already building 765 towers, delivering new or improved coverage to 32,000 homes and businesses across 68,000 square kilometres – with more towers to come,” Senator Nash said.

“This includes 183 new and improved towers in rural and regional NSW.

“There is $155.9 million in the current budget for the Coalition’s Mobile Phone Black Spots Program.”

She said the government wouldn’t fund future rounds of the program until the telecommunications companies had finished constructing the towers funded under rounds one, two and three.

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The bush in need of better coverage

25 May 2017

The significant impacts of the federal Budget cut to mobile blackspot funding for the regions and the lack of priority for improving phone and data connectivity have been outlined by a communications lobby group.

Members of the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) say the decision not to include funds for Round 4 of the Mobile Blackspot program will mean many consumers will not see improvements to coverage in the near future.

They say demand will “far outstrip” available funding and improved mobile coverage is vital for regional consumers.

Besides impacts on farmers and town-based businesses and consumers, there are many premises, vital community areas and high traffic areas at risk from having no mobile coverage.

They say rural, regional and remote areas should not be disadvantaged and want the government and telecommunications providers to build more towers.

Questioned on the issue last week, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said: "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.”

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Parkwood residents call on City of Canning to knock down tower proposal

25 May 2017

PARKWOOD residents Nicole and Noel Harrison want City of Canning to reject a proposal to erect a mobile phone telecommunications tower on Hossack Reserve fearing health implications for locals if approved.

Earlier this month the City invited residents within a 300m radius of the reserve to make submissions on a Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) development application for a telecommunications facility on the reserve for use by Optus and VHA.

The Harrisons, who live on Hossack Avenue across the road from the reserve, are concerned about possible long-term health implications the tower may pose.

“All the research I could find indicates there are not enough studies to confirm there are no heath risks associated with mobile phone towers,” Mr Harrison said.

Mr Harrison said council’s Town Planning Scheme provided guidelines for council in assessing applications for telecommunication facilities that included “telecommunication facilities should not be located within 300m radius of sensitive uses such as schools, child day care centres, nursing homes, hospitals, children’s playgrounds and all existing/proposed residential areas.”

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Network solution stasis in bush

25 May 2017

GRIEVANCES over shoddy mobile network coverage continue to grow in regional communities, but you would not know it judging by the public policy.

Despite widespread frustration among voters and industry, status quo solutions were again endorsed by the the federal government and the  Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

But even the government’s supporters acknowledge that new solutions are needed. The question is, where will the answers come from?

The recent federal budget allocated a fresh injection of $60m to fund round three of the Mobile Black Spot Program, in addition to the $160m already committed for rounds one and two.

The program has attracted $600m in public and private investment into 765 upgraded or new towers.

It is a timely initiative, seeding funds to attract private investment in the bush as Australia spruiks a burgeoning age of agriculture, and the Nationals pursue their decentralisation agenda.

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Infra funds turn their attention to Vocus Group

25 May 2017

Now it's time for the "core-plus" infrastructure funds - the ones that like getting their hands dirty - to run the numbers on Vocus Group.

Street Talk understands infrastructure investors and bankers are making the most of a temporary lull in electricity asset, ports and tollroads sales to take a closer look at the $1.7 billion embattled telecommunications company.

Vocus' core business is an integrated fibre network footprint spanning more than 30,000 kilometres across Australia, both inside and between the major cities. It has a similar infrastructure footprint in New Zealand and cables connecting the two countries with Asia and the United States.

That core business alone sounds like a pure infrastructure play.
But when you add Vocus' other operations - a $1 billion odd portfolio including data centres, an energy business and consumer broadband - it becomes one for infrastructure investors at the private equity end of the spectrum, who have higher return hurdles and are not afraid to slice and dice assets.

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Creightons Creek local frustrated by poor phone reception

25 May 2017

If you’re trying to call, or have a conversation with, Creightons Creek local Jim Shovelton on his mobile phone, you might think he’s ignoring you or he just hung up.

But in fact, Mr Shovelton — who works as an agricultural consultant from home — struggles to get phone reception despite him being able to see the tower, with no obstructions, from 6km away.

This is the frustration being felt by many farmers, who will continue to suffer from poor telecommunications access after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ruled, earlier this month, not to declare a wholesale domestic mobile roaming service.

Mr Shovelton said it was hard to comprehend why he couldn’t get more than two bars of reception on his mobile when he was so close to the tower.

‘‘Why do we have a blackspot when there is a tower at the end of the road? I just don’t understand,’’ he said.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the ACCC had insufficient evidence that ruling in favour of a wholesale mobile roaming service would improve the current state of competition overall.

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Black spot booster solution trialled in WA

23 May 2017

AFTER working in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt region, Comet Solutions found little coverage and not much action. This prompted the company to work in partnerships to find a booster solution giving local farmers more coverage.

Comet Solutions co-founder Andrew Mangano said for years the company worked in the Wheatbelt and understood frustration around the lack of coverage in remote areas.

“The bush needs to be looked after and people are in desperate need of coverage,” Mangano said.

Comet said unreliable mobile phone coverage when working in isolation was a safety issue.

The company said they trialled their approved booster with Jennacubbine farmer Darren West.

Andrew Mangano said it provided service to areas in the workshops, where people work often in isolation and in case of emergency, they need to be able to call someone.

“Where a normal booster operates in the home, this booster system is designed for the outdoors, in workshops, vehicles or a small area on the farm,” Mangano said.

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Bookham now has access to 4G internet and voice services

23 May 2017

Bookham is one of 50 rural communities across Australia that can now access 4G internet and voice services for the first time as part of Telstra’s roll-out of small-cell technology on May 1.

This comes after 50 other small-cell sites with 4G capability became operational earlier in the year. A further 10 are expected to be activated before the end of June, 2017.

Helena Painting, one of the organising team members at the Bookham Community Church, welcomed the news for the village of about 160 people.

“It’s fabulous. If it’s going to improve the communications for the better, it’d be good for the people,” she said.

“There are quite a few people at the church hall who use their phones, so this move will mean a network that’s a lot better for the Bookham community,” she said.

Telstra Group Managing Director, Networks, Mike Wright said rolling out 4G voice services on small cells was part of Telstra’s commitment to expanding its 4G coverage in regional Australia.

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Federal government playing 'cynical political exercise' with Mobile Black Spot restructure

22 May 2017

The federal government’s Mobile Black Spot Program has come under fire from regional Labor MPs, with a restructure following the recent WA state election being labelled “nothing more than a cynical political exercise”.

Federal shadow minister for regional services Stephen Jones said that the announcement of government priority locations in round three of the program – which aims to eradicate mobile phone coverage black spots from regional areas – showed Regional Development Senator Fiona Nash’s decision to restructure had “confirmed that any merit process for ranking mobile black spots in order of community need or priority has all but been abandoned by the Turnbull Government”.

“Despite promising a competitive process two months ago, this has now been abandoned by the Minister,” Mr Jones said.

“And even though the Government also promised that the scheme would improve mobile coverage in areas prone to natural disasters, the electorate of McEwen, held by Labor MP Rob Mitchell has missed out.

“Not surprisingly, there are three times as many Government Priority Locations in Coalition electorates.

“All of the 29 locations that fall in Labor electorates are those that were marginal at the 2016 Federal Election.”

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