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NBN rural rollout speeds up

03 Jan 2017

THE National Broadband Network rollout is ahead of schedule, already connecting 100,000 South Australian premises with connections available for more than a quarter of a million premises.

NBN corporate affairs manager SA and NT Jill Bottrall hoped the rollout would be completed by 2019, a year ahead the initial plan.

“Seventy per cent of what we’ve rolled out has been in regional areas, and in terms of rural versus metropolitan, rural areas came first,” she said.

“Regional and remote areas have priority on where we choose to build first, (especially) those who have very poor or no access at all to internet.”

The fixed wireless service is being planned for the near future for towns such as Wudinna, Orroroo and Kimba, while the SkyMuster satellite is available in other areas.

Ms Bottrall said the internet speeds of 25 megabits a second would allow streaming in high definition.

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Bunnaloo tower scheduled

29 Dec 2016

Telstra has confirmed efforts to improve mobile coverage in the Bunnaloo area will begin in the first quarter of 2017.

It was one of two mobile blackspot projects confirmed for the local area next year.

The other, at Wanganella, is still planned for 2017 but an exact start date is yet to be determined.

An infrastructure funding allocation for the Wanganella tower was upheld by Edward River Council this year.

The former Conargo Shire Council, which merged with Deniliquin Council to form ERC in May, had previously pledged $20,000 to the mobile blackspots program.

The remaining funding will be covered by the program, which is funded by the Commonwealth and state governments and mobile service providers.

The former Conargo Shire Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreement with Telstra to provide the tower last year.

Telstra Country Wide western and northern Victoria area general manager Steve Tinker said Wanganella and Bunnaloo are two of 429 towers of the total 499 under the program to be provided by Telstra.

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Good communication news for Yaraka in time for Christmas

24 Dec 2016

The small town of Yaraka, 165km south west of Blackall, received a Christmas present from Telstra yesterday, when federal Maranoa MP David Littleproud announced he’d been advised construction of their mobile phone tower had been brought forward.

The community of 24 was announced 18 months ago as a successful recipient of a tower under round one of the joint federal-state mobile black spot program, but since then has been in a frustrating limbo of no progress.

When Mr Littleproud enquired a couple of months ago, he was told Telstra had a technical issue to work through, meaning there would be no tower until 2018.

“I didn’t accept that. The work had to be expedited,” he said, adding that technicians were not far away, at Birdsville and Bedourie, and were ahead of schedule on the installation of fibre optic cable to Barcoo and Diamantina shires.

“They today advised me the construction of the mobile phone tower will be brought forward from sometime in 2018 to the first half of next year,” he said. “Thank you Telstra.”

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24 Dec 2016

Mobile phone coverage issues in the Conargo area which are impacting on reporting emergency situations are being monitored by Edward River Council and Telstra.

Council acting general manager Barry Barlow confirmed there were some service interruptions experienced by landholders during a grassfire in the Conargo region a week ago.

He said while it did not impact on the severity of the fire in this instance, ensuring effective service was vital in protecting the community.

‘‘There was a fire in the Aratula area and those on the ground reported some restricted mobile coverage, despite their phones telling them they had full or near to full service where they were,’’ Mr Barlow said.

‘‘One man who was near the fire said he tried to call and warn his neighbours, but was unable to get through. The reports we received were that the communications were not up to standard, and it seems to be eminating from the Conargo tower.

‘‘The concerns have been conveyed to Telstra, and the staff there have been very good. Telstra has already been to do some repairs.

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Cottage Point: The Sydney suburb technology forgot with limited internet or mobile phone coverage

22 Dec 2016

WELCOME to the Sydney suburb trapped in the dark ages.

Business owners and residents at Cottage Point say limited mobile phone and internet reception mean it is the town the 21st Century left behind with.

New safety concerns and business frustrations have now rekindled a decade-long appeal to bring it up to speed.

The only hope is for a telecommunications tower to be built through Federal Government mobile black spot funding, which would provide the infrastructure necessary for reliable coverage.

The suburb, on the fringe of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, is just 29km as the crow flies from the Sydney CBD.

But, as well as dodgy phone and internet reception, it is without public transport, water, sewerage, garbage collection and kerb and guttering.

The dire technological state has prompted the local Marine Rescue to issue a warning that if the mobile black spot is not fixed, there will almost certainly be a death on the water.

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Mid December Update

18 Dec 2016

Telstra this fortnight put in a solid effort as Optus and Vodafone took a bit of a breather. Upgrading 79 sites Telstra's focus was on 4G700 but also 4G1800 got some action also, Telstra also installed 11 new sites 5 of which were in QLD. So far there doesn’t seems to be much happening with 900Mhz, A couple sites have had 2G900 removed and at least one had it added maybe as a place holder, Telstra has 68 sites with 4G900 60 of which are in QLD. There has been no announcement as to what Telstra is planning to do with that spectrum, My guess is it will switch on a 4G900 network but there has been little sign of that so far.

Optus comes in next with 58 site upgrades with the bulk being in NSW and VIC. Also Optus installed 19 new sites with QLD and NSW getting the bulk of the new sites. Rural QLD got several towers enabled along the A71, A4, A2 and A6.

Vodafone with the bulk of its upgrade spend over managed 21 site upgrades and 4 new sites, with the upgrades being a hodgepodge of various things.

NBN continues its current pace activating 10 new sites, and also managed to upgrade a further 12 sites.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has decreased by 11 sites as Optus takes its breather. Optus is ahead of Telstra in 4G700 by 1106 sites. 72.77% of Optus towers now support 4G700 whereas Telstra hasn't reached the halfway mark of its network yet at 44.36%.

WATCH: Take a look at Telstra's new Gladstone region tower

17 Dec 2016

AFTER much frustration, the residents of Ubobo, in the Boyne Valley, will finally be able to connect to their loved ones.

Telstra activated a new mobile base station in the region this week.

In July this year, The Observer printed a number of letters from Ubobo residents who were unhappy about the progress (or lack of it) with the mobile phone tower.

Anger over phone service also came to a head in the Boyne Valley in July when a much-loved dad of three and experienced timber cutter Trev McClure was badly injured at work, but he didn't have phone reception to call for help.

Boyne Valley locals were left wondering if Mr McClure may have survived if the area had the same reception as those in urban areas. 

To see the tower: click here.

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Cape Tribulation black spots could be a thing of the past

16 Dec 2016

CAPE Tribulation is set to benefit from improved mobile phone coverage thanks to a multi-million dollar boost for Queensland.

The Queensland Government will co-fund 72 tower locations with the Commonwealth Government, Telstra, Optus and councils under the national Mobile Black Spot Program. A further four locations were successful in being awarded federal funding under the program for Optus satellite small cells.

Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch said the state had committed $15 million in the 2016-17 state budget to further improve mobile coverage throughout Queensland.

“Mobile coverage can be a life or death matter for people dealing with natural disasters but it is also important for everyday life, business, tourism, education and social connection,” Enoch said.

“Providing mobile coverage at key points along remote roads is critical for locals and tourists alike.

“In this round of funding, for example, the Burke and Wills roadhouse (Four Ways) location in the Cloncurry shire will have improved mobile coverage with co-funding by the state government in partnership with three separate councils.”

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TPG seeks Telstra piggyback into mobile market

16 Dec 2016

Easier entry for a fourth operator?

TPG Telecom is hoping to gain access to Telstra’s regional mobile network to bolster the reach of its planned mobile network.

The telco, which has acquired spectrum assets and has been plotting a 4G network this year, said in an ACCC submission that it remained “interested” in becoming Australia’s fourth mobile network operator.

However, it lamented the high barriers to entry, both in terms of spectrum and capital costs. While it could build its own base stations in metro areas, it appears to be looking for other ways to increase the reach of that investment.

“The barriers to entry for a new entrant into the mobile market are extremely high, arguably higher than any other market in Australia,” TPG said in its submission.

“Obtaining a mobile roaming arrangement is critical to enable the new entrant to build out its network and to supply a service that will be acceptable to the essential early adopters that the new entrant will need to entice to build a successful business.

“It will enable TPG to bring innovative products nationwide, including into the regions and, in so doing, help to mitigate the incredibly high cost of entering the mobile market.”

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Optus says Vodafone blew its chance on 4G

16 Dec 2016

Boils down to 'commercial priorities'.

Vodafone squandered its first-mover advantage on 4G and can only blame its own “commercial priorities” and network problems for its market woes, according to Optus.

The stinging rebuke came as Optus declared it would not support a regulated opening of Telstra’s regional mobile network to other telcos, even though it could benefit as a “potential user” of such a service.

Vodafone and TPG support the opening of Telstra’s network. Vodafone claims Telstra’s “entrenched mobile network monopoly” is harming competition in regional areas, and that it – and other competitors – “cannot feasibly duplicate” regional infrastructure.

However Optus argues that carriers have continued to deploy infrastructure to varying degrees.

Optus’ own network investments had helped erode price premiums on Telstra services, it said, even though it was comparatively late to the 4G party.

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