Federal, state and local governments are spending up along with Telstra and Vodafone to boost those carriers' coverage in mobile phone blackspots around Australia. $385 million has been pledged over the next three years to fix poor mobile network reception in outer metro, regional and remote areas of the country, with the first improvements made before the end of this year.
Of that total of $385m, $165m is from Telstra, $100m will be coming from the Federal Government, $32m from WA, $24m from the NSW state government, $21m from Victoria, $20m from Vodafone, $10m from Queensland, and $350,000 from Tasmania, while a further $1.7m will come from local government as well as local "business and community organisations".
That money will be funnelled back to Telstra and Vodafone to pay for the network improvements, with 499 new or boosted mobile base stations planned to be built to cover 68,600 square kilometres with reception strong enough to be picked up by a mobile handset. 150,000 square kilometres — an extra 2 per cent of Australia's total land area — will have new reception for high-gain mobile antennas (for installations rather than portable mobile phones) and 5700km of Australia's roads will gain reception where it was not previously available.
Bids were originally sought from all three of Australia's largest mobile telcos for a slice of the funding, but Optus missed out on any handouts. Telstra is the largest winner from the program, and will build or upgrade a total of 429 base stations around the country while Vodafone will build 70. Telstra will also use funding to expand its 4G network footwork with 200 "small cell" stations in locations yet to be finalised.
You can find a map of the funded black spot coverage from new mobile base stations on Australia's National Map, under the Communications data set. Apart from the relatively tiny and already well-covered ACT, every Australian state and territory benefits from the black spot coverage — NSW will see 144 new stations built or upgraded, Victoria 110, Queensland 68, WA 130, South Australia 11, Tasmania 31 and the Northern Territory gets 5.
Optus doesn't miss out entirely from the cash splash, though — both Vodafone and Telstra must offer their competitor networks the option to co-locate their mobile antenna hardware on new base stations before they're built, so it could jump on tower upgrades where it deems a coverage boost necessary or warranted. [Department of Communications]