Mobile Black Spot Program
The Australian Government is improving mobile phone coverage and competition in regional and remote Australia through the Mobile Black Spot Programme.
Types of Base Stations that maybe used in the Mobile Black Spot Program
|Base Station Type||Typical Coverage Radius||Typical Use|
|Picocell||200m||high rise building, hotel or car park use|
|Microcell||1-2km||shopping centers, transport hubs, mine sites, city block, temporary events or natural disasters.|
|Macrocell||5-32km||suburban, city and rural use|
|Macrocell – Extended Reach||50-150km using extender cell technology||suburban and rural use|
More details here http://www.mobilenetworkguide.com.au/mobile_base_stations.html
Small Cells can be either Picocells or Microcells
- What is the range of a small cell?
The range of a small cell is dependent on a number of variables. Small cells are only viable when they can be achieved at the right price point, which in simple terms means the site’s antennas (especially for small cells deployed as part of the Black Spot program) are normally mounted on an existing building. Coverage typically therefore extends a radial distance of approximately 300m from the site.
- Does it only support 4G?
The small cells we are deploying are 4G only. Telcos believe that this provides support for advanced voice and data features at the best cost point. Addition of 3G capability would significantly add to the deployment cost and render it economically unviable.
- And therefore they need to use Voice over WiFi
Voice calls on 4G small cells require the handset to support VoLTE (Voice on LTE). If the handset also supports Voice over WiFi (e.g. the new Samsung S8 & S8+ blue tick phone) then it will seamlessly handoff from VoLTE (outside coverage) to VoWiFi if say a premise has fixed broadband connected to a WiFi access point.
- If a community wanted to upgrade the small cell to increase coverage, is that something we’d consider.
The viability of a small cell program relies on a low cost solution delivering an acceptable coverage solution for our customers. The rollout of the Small cell program for the Federal Government Blackspot program is a good example of this. Telcos always aim to maximise the coverage we provide for a community within the funding constraints. If a community wishes to contribute towards augmentation of a site then we are happy to review that on a case by case basis.
How the mobile black spots were funded?
The Australian Government has committed $220 million to the Mobile Black Spot Program to invest in telecommunications infrastructure to improve mobile coverage along major regional transport routes, in small communities and in locations prone to natural disasters. Together rounds 1 and 2 will deliver almost $600 million in new investment towards improving mobile coverage in regional and remote Australia. This $600 million investment is enabling the delivery of:
- 765 new and upgrade mobile base stations
- 86,300 square kilometres of new and upgraded handheld coverage
- 202,300 square kilometres of new external antenna coverage
- over 7,600 kilometres new coverage to major transport routes.
Thanks to working cooperatively with state and local governments as well as Telstra Corp, Vodafone Australia and community and private sector groups locally, the total amount to be invested under the program is $385 million. Every $1 of Commonwealth money has leveraged nearly $3 of contributions from other sources. The program will boost competition in mobile communications.
The rules of the program were designed to give the mobile network operators incentives to secure co-contributions from state governments and other sources, with more points going to base stations supported by a co-contribution. The rules also gave each state government an incentive to put in money – because that in turn would maximise the share of the Commonwealth money going to base stations in that state. The result was significant funding from NSW ($24 million), Victoria ($21 million), Queensland ($10 million) and Western Australia ($32 million).
The points scheme also encouraged community contributions – with some remarkable outcomes. Jemalong Irrigation Ltd, which operates west of Forbes, NSW, put in a total of $220,000 and will secure two new base stations as a result. Similarly, in the Boyne Valley region of Queensland, Calliope & District Enterprises Ltd offered a co-contribution of $50,000 while the Calliope Rodeo Association contributed $80,000, which led to a successful proposal for a base station in Ubobo.
The first round 1 base stations commenced rolling out in December 2015. The full rollout of all 499 mobile base stations funded under round 1 is expected to occur over three years. The rollout sequence is being determined by Telstra and Vodafone based on various factors, such as obtaining local government planning approval and landowner agreement where necessary, and/or the ability to access existing infrastructure, power and backhaul.
It is estimated that the 499 base stations funded through Round 1 of the Programme will deliver handheld or external antenna coverage to all or part of approximately 3,000 of the 6,221 locations on the database. This is because many of these base stations will serve multiple nominated black spot locations. Those black spot locations which have not received coverage under Round 1 will continue to form part of the database, and this database will again be used in the process of determining locations to receive funding under Round 2 of the Mobile Black Spot Programme
A PDF of the actual mobile blackspots in round 1 is here
A map of locations which will receive new or upgraded coverage under Round 1 of the Programme can also be viewed on the National Map or downloaded as an Excel file. In addition, as part of Telstra’s proposal, it will deploy up to 200 4G small cell sites in towns around Australia where suitable infrastructure is available, with the locations to be mutually agreed between Telstra and the Government. More details here. Details of the Round 1 Funded Black Spots
Telstra also rolled out further small cell locations to complement the mobile black spot program. The small cell sites were funded by Telstra itself, and are being installed in addition to the 429 base stations built or upgraded by the telco under the AU$94.8 million in funding received from the federal government as part of round one of the mobile blackspot program. More details here
Round 2 will see a total of $213 million (GST incl.) being invested in new mobile base station infrastructure. The Australian Government funding for round 2 has been supplemented by Telstra ($63.7 million) Optus ($36.4 million) and Vodafone ($1.6 million). In addition, six state governments have co-contributed towards round 2: New South Wales ($8.3 million), Queensland ($13.7 million), South Australia ($1.5 million), Tasmania ($0.35 million), Victoria ($7.9 million) and Western Australia ($21.8 million). An additional $475,000 has been provided by local governments, businesses and community organisations.
The first round 2 base stations are expected to commence rolling out in 2017.
A PDF of the actual mobile blackspots in round 2 is here
The Australian Government has committed an additional $60 million to a third round of funding. As part of this commitment, the Australian Government has announced a number of priority locations which may receive funding for a mobile base station under round 3.
Mobile coverage issues for 19 of the priority locations are already being addressed through previous rounds of the program, an alternative Government program, or through the mobile carriers own commercial investments.
A further $82.8 million in new investment will address the remaining 106 priority locations. The outcomes include:
- $45.6 million in Commonwealth funding for 102 mobile base stations (12 Optus, 89 Telstra and one Vodafone), which includes the deployment of Telstra 4G small cells to address specific coverage issues at selected black spot locations.
- All macrocell base stations will be provisioned with a minimum of 12 hours of back-up power
- Optus and Telstra have recognised the coverage issues identified at four priority locations and advised that they will address these issues commercially.
- Funding for the Priority Locations round has been supplemented by Telstra ($34.6 million), Optus ($2.3 million) and Vodafone ($0.3 million).
Round 3 is different to Rounds 1 and 2 as the government nominates which locations it feels should receive funding for a mobile blackspot and it will be up to the Telcos to bid for those locations.
The Australian Government has allocated $60 million (GST exclusive) to the Mobile Black Spot Program to target 125 specific priority locations. The outcome for each priority location is listed in this PDF:
Database of reported mobile black spot locations
Under Round 1 of the Programme, a database of 6,221 locations around Australia was developed, being locations nominated by Australians as needing improved mobile coverage. This database was the starting point for the competitive selection process under which the mobile network operators were asked to nominate where they would build new or upgraded base stations.
- Prepared by Julie Stott for BIRRR,
- Source: Australian Financial Review
- Source: Department of Communications and Arts
*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider regarding your own connection issues and best plans available.