ALGA endorses revised mobile black spot funding model

ALGA has welcome proposals to direct Mobile Black Spot Program funding towards regional and remote areas hitherto considered commercially unviable by telco providers.

In a submission to a discussion paper on the design of the next round of the Mobile Black Spots Program – Round 5A – ALGA repeated its long-standing position that people in rural and remote locations should have access to the same level of communications as Australians living in urban areas.

“For those remote areas currently without coverage, high entry costs have made it unviable to date for carriers to invest. 

“In providing greater mobile coverage it remains important that fibre backhaul is provided in towns, which would facilitate the capacity for mobile services to be provided equitably to all Australians.”

The submission, incorporating feedback from most state and territory organisations, also supported the three priority areas addressed in the discussion paper, namely:

  • High priority natural disaster-prone areas including those affected or prone to bushfire;
  • New technology solutions in areas where low population densities have discouraged applications under earlier rounds; and
  • Major regional and remote transport corridors.

The many communications failures during the recent 2019-20 bushfires highlighted the need for improved and more resilient mobile phone infrastructure, the submission said.

It added that ALGA supports the design principle that some base stations may also benefit from having redundant backhaul during disaster events, specifically auxiliary backup power and extended backup power resilience.