What do the picturesque Walhalla area in Victoria, the historic gold mining town of Hargraves in New South Wales and the indigenous community of Injinoo on the very tip of Australia have in common?

They currently have little to no mobile reception, but will soon have access to Telstra’s high speed mobile coverage.

I am pleased to announce Telstra will build 148 more 3G/4G mobile base stations in rural and regional locations across Australia under Round Two of the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program (MBSP).

This is in addition to the 429 we are already building under Round One of Program which means, all up, we will now be delivering expanded mobile coverage to 577 rural and regional locations across the nation.

As the carrier with the nation’s largest mobile footprint and the first to bring 4G mobile services to regional Australia, we know that increased coverage is the number one priority for people and businesses in regional Australia.

We have already expanded mobile coverage to 72 locations across our vast nation under the MBSP, resulting in nearly 30,000 square kilometres of new or improved mobile coverage.

Thousands of people in rural and regional areas can now talk with family, friends and run their businesses more effectively through Telstra’s 4GX service, bringing you the fastest 4G speeds on your 4GX device in Australia (in 4GX areas).

The improved coverage will increase access to new technologies for key regional sectors like agriculture, transport, mining and tourism – technologies which rely on a fast, reliable and affordable mobile network. We are also continuing to roll out up to 250 innovative 4G data only small cells to a number of other communities to ensure more of regional Australia has access to fast connectivity.”

Telstra worked closely with all levels of Government and local communities when developing our submission under Round Two, and in many cases formally partnered with State Governments to identify priority areas.

The Round Two locations will soon be incorporated into our black spot rollout schedule and should be online within the next two years.

Under Rounds One and Two of the MBSP, Telstra is joining with the Federal and State Governments as well as numerous local councils to invest more than $486 million in regional Australia.

The MBSP is part of our own planned $1 billion commitment to continue to expand world leading services in regional Australia, including investing in new technology, more base stations and co-investments.

As part of this program, we will continue to offer other carriers the opportunity to use space on our mobile base station to install their own equipment and offer services to their customers, in accordance with existing industry practices. Our competitors are well-resourced and free to invest in extending their own networks so this is also an opportunity for all carriers to invest in expanding their coverage in regional Australia.

The program is encouraging providers to build mobile infrastructure in remote parts of Australia – infrastructure such as towers and backhaul that all carriers can use to provide services to their customers if they choose to invest – and that is a great outcome for people living and working in these communities.

We look forward to connecting these towns and helping them thrive.

Vodafone’s misleading claims about improving coverage

Under Round 2 of the Program, Vodafone have invested just $1.6 million to improve mobile coverage for their regional customers.

Our experience is that when Vodafone can choose between investing and freeloading, they’ll go freeloading every time.

The Mobile Black Spot Program, like a number of coverage programs in the past, is a government-run open and competitive process and every carrier had an equal opportunity to put in the best bid.

Telstra decided to partner with a number of governments to submit a competitive bid, as did Optus.

We offer the opportunity for other mobile companies to co-locate their equipment on our mobile base stations. Over the past 10 years, Telstra has enabled co-location in 97% of applications it has received for design and construct.

The Mobile Black Spot Program is guided by clear rules on co-location. We have and will continue to offer other network operators, including Vodafone, the opportunity to use space on our mobile base station to install their own equipment and offer services to their customers.

We’ll also continue to request co-location of our equipment on other operators’ sites so that we can improve coverage for our regional customers.

The benefits being delivered by the Mobile Black Spot Program demonstrate that the current regulatory settings combined with public and private co-investment is the most effective way to expand mobile coverage in regional Australia.