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The Best Smartphone Plans With Lots Of Data

14 Aug 2017

Do you remember when Optus used to include unmetered social media data in plans? Back in the good old days when most of Facebook was text-based and videos were unheard of.

These days, social media is one of the major data killers on our phones, not just because of the prevalence of videos, but also to the way that social media platforms prioritise the visibility of video. We recently ran a few tests and found that an hour of regular Facebook browsing uses about 80MB, an hour of watching videos on Facebook uses (a pretty reasonable) 160MB, and that an hour in Instagram burns through a huge 720MB.

Which is a long way of saying what you already know: you need data. Lots of it.

Happily, the telcos are listening and data inclusions are moving upwards in big chunks. Below are the plans with the biggest data inclusions you can buy right now.

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Clarke Creek experience highlights value of mobile phones for remote schools

11 Aug 2017

The central role that schools play in small isolated communities should see them a lay down misere when expansions of regional Australia’s mobile coverage footprint are planned.

That was the view of delegates to the federal Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association conference in Alice Springs, who voted to continue the lobby to relevant federal ministers to ensure that rural and remote schools are prioritised when any mobile coverage extension is contemplated.

The issue was brought up by the Balranald branch in New South Wales, which argued that most rural and remote schools were evacuation points in the event of emergencies in the area.

“Clare Public School is 155km from Balranald and consists of a school only,” the motion’s explanation read. “In the event of a bushfire, the school is the emergency evacuation point.”

Its prominent position makes it the custodian of the community Royal Flying Doctor Service medical chest and a defibrillator.

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Development application lodged for mobile phone pole at Lake Tinaroo, large ‘public benefit’ for region

11 Aug 2017

Lake Tinaroo campers could have better mobile phone coverage soon.

A development application for a 40-metre-high Telstra telephone pole will be tabled at the Tablelands Regional Council’s planning committee meeting on Thursday.

The proposed development is recommended, despite issues with the pole’s closeness to residential areas and visual impact for surrounding areas.

The report said the impacts are outweighed by the “overall public benefit”.

“This officer assessment has identified some inconsistencies with the relevant provisions of the

applicable planning instruments, and localised impacts on visual amenity,” the report said.

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Mobile blackspots: SA Government's 'disappointing' phone towers bid criticised by Opposition

09 Aug 2017

The South Australian Opposition has lashed out at the State Government, accusing it of not bidding for enough phone towers for remote parts of the state.

The Government revealed in budget estimates that it had applied for 22 new phone towers in the second round of the Federal Government's Mobile Black Spot Program. It was approved for 20.

Under the program there were 266 new or upgraded mobile base stations up for grabs.

"It is really disappointing that the government only submitted 22 priority sites under the program," Opposition spokesman David Ridgway said.

Funding for the program is shared by the Federal Government, state governments and the major telco companies.

Mr Ridgway said he believed the reason South Australia did not get more towers was because it only contributed $1.5 million to round two, which overall was worth $213 million.

"There is a direct correlation, they only put in $1.5 million," Mr Ridgway said.

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Program to fixing mobile blackspots in outback NT

09 Aug 2017

Residents of Manyallaluk have received mobile phone and fixed broadband services thanks to a three-year, $30 million co-investment program between the NT Government and Telstra.

Manyallaluk is about 100 km north-east of Katherine and is home to about 100 people.

Both the NT Government and Telstra have each committed$5 million per year over three years to the program that will build at least eight new mobile base stations in remote communities within the Territory.

The community of Barunga has also benefitted from the program and now has a fixed broadband service, further to its previous constructed mobile service, which will help provide new economic opportunities for locals. 

Member for Arnhem Selena Uibo said the agreement with Telstra has been integral to the government’s pursuit of reliable telecommunications infrastructure in remote communities. 

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Nash hits back over mobile black spot claims

09 Aug 2017

NSW Minister for Regional Communications Fiona Nash has hit back hard at claims made by Opposition spokesman for regional services Stephen Jones about the government’s mobile phone black spot program priority location list.

Mr Jones called the program a “political plaything,” said the government had abandoned need as a method of ranking black spots, and pointed out that three times as many government priority locations were in in Coalition electorates.

Tumut is number 27 on the government’s list.

Mr Jones added: “following on from the myriad of flaws in the design and administration of this program identified by the ANAO (Australian National Audit Office) last year, it seems that the Minister has put it in the “too hard” basket.”

Ms Nash begs to differ.

“It is the Coalition which is delivering a tower to Tumut and Labor who has never delivered, nor even promised, a tower,” Ms Nash said.

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Australian 5G field trial costs could be slashed

08 Aug 2017

Scientific spectrum license costs up for review.

Australia’s mobile telcos could see the cost of testing 5G equipment in the field cut by up to 90 percent after a decision by the communications regulator to review the pricing of trial spectrum.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said it had been asked by “stakeholders” to review the fees charged for so-called “scientific licenses”.

Such licenses are commonly used by telcos and equipment makers to demonstrate and trial new mobile and wireless technologies outside of a laboratory environment and in more ‘real world’ conditions.

The driver of the proposed change in fees appears to be complaints by telcos that the current structure makes 5G tests too expensive.

“The large quantum of spectrum required for the testing of some services or technologies may result in a significant fee to undertake a short-term experimental trial,” the ACMA said.

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Vodafone talks up $2B tech spend amid six-month loss

07 Aug 2017

Not to be outdone by the likes of Telstra and Optus, Vodafone Australia is set to nudge $2 billion in spend on its mobile network and technology in 2017, despite reporting a half-yearly loss of $81.5 million.

Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) revealed on 1 August its price tag for its increase network coverage, capacity and performance during 2017.

News of the new network spend for 2017 comes as Optus reveals plans to set aside $1 billion towards the improvement and expansion of its mobile network in regional Australia, and almost a year after Telstra said it would pump $3 billion into new network investments.

Reporting on the company’s half-year results for the six months ending 30 June 2017, VHA CFO, James Marsh, said the company’s current network capability is a key driver of its performance.

“We have a world-class network and are continuing to invest heavily to make it even better for our customers, including in regional areas where we are building or upgrading around 450 sites this year,” Marsh said.

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Optus pumps $20M into network prep for Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games

07 Aug 2017

Optus has committed to a $20 million investment to improve its mobile network across the Gold Coast in preparation for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The telco has revealed will build new mobile towers to improve coverage at two sites across Carrara Stadium, the Commonwealth Games Village, Currumbin and Main Beach.

Existing 62 mobile towers will be upgraded, the telco announced, with Optus 4G to improve capacity and customer experience.

More importantly, the telco promised to implement different mobile technologies outside its traditional towers in the region.

“We’re taking the approach that a broad range of technology solutions will provide the most consistent and versatile network coverage,” Optus vice president and executive lead for the Commonwealth Games, Ian Smith, said.

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Let's fix Australia's patchy mobile coverage before NBN kills off reliable home phones

07 Aug 2017

When will Aussies retire their home phone? Maybe when the mobile networks deliver on their promises.

Last week I asked when Aussies would retire their home phone service, while admitting that I still have one as a security blanket even though I barely use it. The overwhelming response from readers, both online and in the paper, was that a fixed-line phone remains essential because Australia's mobile coverage is so unreliable.

With all the focus on the hotch potch NBN rollout, I admit I overlooked the fact that many people still can't rely on their mobile phone at home. It's not just an issue in regional and remote Australia, mobile black spots also plague metro areas – with some people getting no coverage at all and others needing to stand outside to get a reliable signal.

These aren't isolated cases, with a third of Australians experience mobile coverage issues at home, according to a survey.

The problem with black spots is so bad that 14% of respondents say they simply can't rely on their mobile phone when they're at home. Their fixed-line phone is their only reliable link to the outside world, yet once the NBN reaches them they'll likely be stuck with a home phone that dies when the power or internet goes out.

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