More than 40 regional Victorian areas will have improved access to mobile phone coverage within the next 18 months as the state government continues to roll out the Mobile Black Spot Program.
- 41 regional Victorian areas will receive mobile base stations in the next 18 months under the state government program
- The stations will provide improved mobile coverage in areas including regions know for mobile black spots
- It comes as the state’s 200th station was recently activated in Knowsley, east of Bendigo
Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy Jaala Pulford said the latest towers will be constructed over the next 18 months.
“It has been a seven-year project to get us to 200 and what people across rural and regional Victoria will now see is quite a significant increase in the pace of the program,” Ms Pulford said.
It comes as the 200th station was recently switched on at Knowsley, east of Bendigo.
“We recognise that Victorian communities have had a very tough year and we’ve got some work ahead of us in terms of strong economic recovery. Good digital connectivity is a really important part of that,” Ms Pulford said.
“Part of our big rebuild budget in November included $600 million for better broadband and mobile connectivity so it is certainly part of our strengthening of the Victorian economy.”
Ms Pulford said while there was a strong focus on rebuilding the economy and ensuring communities have the technology to cope, it would also provide increased safety.
“And it is an incredibly important part of the reason that we are doing this as well.”
Bridgewater, near Bendigo, is one of the 41 regions set to benefit from the rollout, and the local caravan park said the upgrades cannot come soon enough.
Rhonda Reilly has been at the park for a year-and-a-half and said the internet connection drops out at least half-a-dozen times per day.
“So, if this happens maybe they might look at putting some wi-fi in the park which would be awesome.”
She said it would be welcome news for the many tourists who visit the park each year.
“Amazing, that is one word. Amazing because the reception drops out all the time. It is ridiculous what we out up with,” Ms Reilly said.
More change needed
Today’s announcement at a state level comes as Regional Development Australia continues seeking legislative change over mobile coverage at a Commonwealth level.
RDA Grampians chief executive Stuart Benjamin said following the 2019-20 bushfire season, RDA divisions across Australia began advocating for mobile phones to connect to available networks when their home network drops out.
“As an Australian citizen you have a mobile connection with a provider, and that means you can only use their network,” he said.
“If you’re an international tourist you can use any network, but not if you’re an Aussie.
“Over the 2019-20 summer we saw a number of towers burnt out and we got feedback from the CFA saying they could see towers but couldn’t use them even when their network is down.”
Mr Benjamin said the change was needed even with more towers being built to remove black spots.
“One of the issues we have in Australia is the ACCC has not forced providers to provide detailed maps, so we don’t know where the true black spots are,” he said.
“From the work we have undertaken, we think at least 50 per cent of the true black spots that still exist could be rectified by allowing temporary roaming under the network.
Mr Benjamin said discussions with the federal government about the change had so far been positive.
A Department for Communications spokeswoman told the ABC the ACCC reviewed the matter in 2017.
“It determined that mobile roaming would inhibit investment in regional communications infrastructure and would not alleviate mobile black spots,” she said.
“The government will continue to be guided by the ACCC’s advice on this issue.”