Mobile blackspot program: $60m up for grabs in second round

Vodafone confirms it will participate, Optus ‘actively reviewing’ application process

The government today opened up the competitive selection process for the second round of the mobile blackspot program.

In round two of the program, which is focused on delivering mobile coverage to underserved areas, there is up to $60 million available to telcos. To get a slice of the funding telcos can propose to upgrade existing coverage or build new base stations.

In their funding applications telcos have to include the proposed amount of federal funding, the amount of their own co-contribution, and funding from other sources including state and local governments.

In the leadup to the selection process the public nominated more than 4400 mobile blackspots.

In the $100 million first round both Telstra and Vodafone walked away with funding.

The first round covered 429 Telstra base stations and 70 Vodafone base stations, with Telstra also committing to deploying 250 4G small cells.

Vodafone has confirmed that it will participate in round two.

“Vodafone’s rollout of the first round of 70 sites is on track, with the first location at White Rock in New South Wales switched on in December last year,” said Vodafone chief strategy officer Dan Lloyd.

“A further 11 sites in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania will follow by July this year.”

Read more: Catherine Livingstone steps down as Telstra chair

Lloyd said the telco had been working with “local communities, councils and MPs” in the lead-up to the second round.

“With the programme guidelines and list of blackspot sites now issued, we will begin preparing our proposal for lodgement before 14 June,” the telco exec said.

“We look forward to again participating in this programme to deliver the full benefits of coverage and choice to customers in more regional areas through increased competition and infrastructure sharing.”

Optus, which sought to participate in the first round but didn’t receive any funding, said it is “actively reviewing the process for participation” in round two.

“Optus is committed to communications for all Australians and continues to expand its mobile network by investing in 4G services across Australia,” a spokesperson said.

“We have already delivered new and improved mobile coverage to 18 communities in just a few months, the first of 429 mobile sites we are deploying under Round 1 of the program, and we look forward to investigating further opportunities to connect more Australians under Round 2,” a Telstra spokesperson said.

“It is anticipated that the tender process will take several months to complete and during this time there is likely to be speculation about which areas will receive funds. We will honour the tender process and are unable to comment on what companies or areas might receive funding.”

The government expects to announce locations that will be funded from the new round of the program in the second half of the year.

Earlier this month the government revealed details of first mobile towers to be built as part of the blackspot program.

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