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Victorian Govt pledges $11M for Mobile Black Spot Program

03 May 2017

The Victorian Government has revealed its investment of $45 million to improve digital technology and infrastructure across regional Victoria, which includes $11 million for the Mobile Black Spot program.

The funding was revealed in the state's 2017/18 Budget, which was handed down on 2 May, and includes financial provision for 30 new mobile base stations during 2017/18, some of which are included in the $18 million Regional Rail Connectivity Project, in association with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.

In its Budget 2017/18 papers for rural and regional Victoria, the government stated that the investment is a “key priority”, with a focus on increasing mobile telephone coverage in flood and fire prone areas with poor coverage.

The $45 million funding commitment outlined in the Budget supports the Connecting Regional Communities Program (CRCP), which is a direct response to several regional state partnerships calling for improvements to digital infrastructure.

The CRCP aims to develop region-specific strategies, with the state government working alongside each regional partnership to establish solutions that meet communities’ digital needs and priorities.

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Telcos await mobile roaming D-Day

03 May 2017

RURAL Australians struggling with unreliable mobile coverage are waiting with baited breath for a decision which could put a stop to mobile drop outs. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims will this week make a ruling on enforced sharing of mobile tower infrastructure. 

If domestic mobile roaming is introduced, mobile users in the bush could access reception through another operator’s network when outside of the coverage area of their own carrier. Their smart devices would seamlessly dart between carriers to maintain a connection.

Instead of having multiple towers in one area, telcos would be obliged to share.

The issue has been investigated by the ACCC twice already but has failed to get the go ahead. Now, with mobile phone usage at record levels, mobile roaming could change the game.

It’s been a nervous wait for rival telcos Telstra and Vodafone which have been on a war footing since the inquiry was launched by the ACCC in September. 

Telstra, with a stranglehold on the regional market, is fiercely opposed roaming. Optus, too, rejects the idea. 

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Currumbin MP Jann Stuckey grills Police Minister Mark Ryan over city emergency calls going to NSW

02 May 2017

THE triple-0 system is facing more scrutiny with a State MP fuming at Gold Coast emergency calls going to NSW cops.

Police top brass admit some emergency calls via mobile phone near the border are picked up by a NSW telecommunications tower and initially go to NSW police.

The calls are diverted to Queensland cops within a minute, police say.

But Currumbin MP Jann Stuckey claimed: “That wasn’t the case for Elanora residents who, instead of getting a swift response, were left waiting two hours after an early morning call for assistance.”

Queensland police eventually attended after residents called Policelink but the perpetrators had fled, she said.

“This was not the fault of police, rather a system failing.”

Her blast comes after it was revealed police weren’t sent to a Broadbeach domestic violence assault until 82 minutes after triple-0 were called.

An Elanora resident told the Bulletin she placed frequent emergency calls because of an out-of-control neighbour but due to the tower issue didn’t call triple-0 anymore.

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Telstra rolling out new technology to bring 4G voice calls to Taylors Arm

02 May 2017

Taylors Arm is one of 50 rural communities across Australia now have access to 4G internet and voice services for the first time as part of Telstra’s roll-out of small cell technology.

“Telstra has been a leader in the use of 4G small cell technology to give more regional and rural customers a mobile data connection,” Telstra Group Managing Director, Networks, Mike Wright said.

“Now Telstra is the first carrier in Australia to provide 4G voice services on small cell technology.

“Already this financial year 50 small cell sites with 4G call capability have become operational across rural Australia with a further 10 expected to be activated before the end of June.”

Mr Wright said rolling out 4G voice services on small cells was part of Telstra’s commitment to expanding its 4G coverage in regional Australia.

“This technology highlights the ongoing investments we are making in our mobile network for our rural customers,” he said.

“We know how important mobile voice calling is for local communities and businesses and we are proud to be the first carrier in Australia to provide voice calling via 4G only small cells.”

A small cell is a miniature version of a standard base station and is traditionally used to boost coverage and capacity in densely populated urban areas.

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Telstra 4G rollout continues in mobile blackspot regions

02 May 2017

Telstra is ramping up the deployment of 4G Internet and voice services on small cell technology across regional Australia as part of the second phase of the government’s national mobile blackspot programme.

The telco says already 50 small cell sites with 4G call capability are operational across rural Australia, with a further 10 expected to be activated before the end of June, giving communities access  to mobile data services for the first time.

Telstra has committed to fully funding up to 250 small cells during the rollout of the government’s blackspot programme, in addition to the 577 mobile base stations it is building under rounds 1 and 2 of the programme.

And, Telstra claims first-mover rights using 4G small cell technology – a miniature version of a standard base station is traditionally used to boost coverage and capacity in densely populated urban areas.

In 2014, Telstra reworked the technology to launch small cells for 4G data / Internet services in small regional and rural communities where a full-sized base station would not be feasible.

At launch, small cells were unable to support 4G voice call capabilities, but Telstra says recent technology developments have made 4G voice calls in small cell coverage areas a reality.

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Banjup residents not happy with Vodafone proposal to build telecommunications tower

01 May 2017

OUR thirst for mobile speed and coverage has never been higher but a proposal by Vodafone to build a telecommunications tower in Banjup is likely to face stiff opposition from nearby residents.

In an application out for community consultation until May 10, the company has proposed to install a 37m-high tower and equipment shelter at the back of a property on Harper Road.

A spokeswoman for Vodafone said the tower would be built to meet customer demand for improved mobile services in Banjup, Atwell and surrounding areas.

“The site would improve speed and accessibility in the area, giving residents and businesses access to more reliable voice services and high-speed 4G speeds,” she said.

“It will also reduce congestion on existing infrastructure in Cockburn Central, Success, Banjup, Forrestdale and Wandi.”

But there are residents, including Gutteridge Road local Jane Yovich, against it.

Mrs Yovich said the tower, to be built in the property adjacent to her family home, would be “a major blight on the landscape”.

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Optus to improve mobile coverage at Port Macquarie and along Pacific Highway

28 Apr 2017

Optus customers will have improved 4G mobile coverage in Port Macquarie and along the Pacific Highway.

It is all thanks to a multi-million dollar commitment from Optus.

Optus acting NSW state manager Eric Albina said Optus was committed to investing $6 million in the Port Macquarie area and along the Pacific Highway to improve mobile coverage.

Download speeds will improved too.

Mr Albina said the investment was great news for residents, small business operators and tourists wanting to stay connected.

He said Port Macquarie had a growing population and Optus had received community feedback about coverage around Port Macquarie.

Optus has switched on new towers in the past 12 months at Beechwood, West Haven and Sancrox.

Towers are under construction at North Haven, Herons Creek and Emerald Downs.

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Controversial Telstra tower under construction north of Lismore

28 Apr 2017

WORK has commenced on a controversial Telstra mobile phone tower on Nimbin Rd at Koonorigan despite a concerted effort against it.

More than 50 submissions were lodged against the location of the tower, including from Lismore City Council, which argued it would compromise visual amenity on Nimbin Rd, which is used regularly by tourists driving to Nimbin.

Resident Ellie Ryan, whose home is just 70m from the tower, is furious that Telstra are proceeding despite serious concerns being raised.

The tower is at the bottom of a valley, at a Telstra exchange just north of the intersection of Koonorigan Rd and Nimbin Rd.

"Because of its positioning, down low in the valley it will not provide the coverage for which it is intended," Ms Ryan said.

"Telstra have told residents that the tower has to go on the proposed site because they are given this information from the Mobile Black Spot Program."

(But) the co-ordinates on the Mobile Black Spot Program map for Koonorigan are at the top of the ridge, which would give far better coverage.

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Switched on: First mobile phone base station in Titjikala

27 Apr 2017

Titjikala is the first community to receive mobile phone reception under a three-year, $30 million co-investment program between the Northern Territory Government and Telstra.

The Territory Government and Telstra have each committed five million dollars per year over three years, resulting in at least eight new mobile base stations being constructed in remote communities within the Northern Territory.

In addition to Titjikala, Manyallaluk, Umbakumba, Bulman, Weemol, Minyerri, Kaltukatjara, and Yarralin will also receive mobile phone coverage under this program. Further sites are also being investigated.

Member for Namatjira Chansey Paech said the agreement helped the government to build reliable telecommunications infrastructure in remote communities.

“The Territory Labor Government has a clear focus on delivering for people in the bush,” Mr Paech said.

“Our partnership with Telstra is ensuring that people who live in remote and regional parts of the Northern Territory gain the same access to services as the people who live in our urban centres.

“Mobile phone coverage means people are better able to develop their own economic opportunities, like establishing tourism ventures.

“Families can also stay in touch more easily which is important for our communities. In an emergency, mobile phone coverage can make a huge difference for people in the bush.

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NBN Hit Gigabit Speeds In Fixed Wireless Trials

27 Apr 2017

The fixed wireless component of the NBN has always trailed behind wired in both its speed and download limits, but the national broadband network company is taking some steps to address at least that first part. It's trialing carrier aggregation tech that can boost speeds far in excess of the current 50Mbps limit, using some of the same tech that already speeds up Telstra, Vodafone and Optus's commercial mobile networks.

Using carrier aggregation — basically bonding together different signals from varying frequencies — NBN has been able to hit 1.1Gbps download and 165Mbps upload speeds on a test portion of its fixed wireless network, although it's not clear whether those peak speeds were simultaneously achieved. That's over 20 times faster than the 50Mbps top speed tier of current fixed wireless plans on the NBN, although apparently 100Mbps plans are due later this year.

At the moment, Australia's telcos use a maximum of four frequencies for carrier aggregation on their mobile networks — that's what Telstra uses to achieve its 1Gbps download speeds with appropriately fast hardware. NBN used a grand total of eleven frequency bands across the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum bands that fixed wireless is delivered along.

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