Understanding Telecommunications on the Mid North Coast: Federal and State Government funded programs

Article summary:

  • Explanation of Australian Government’s regional telecommunications programs including the mobile blackspot program, the Better Connectivity for Rural Regional Australia plan, the Regional Telecommunications Review and the Regional Tech Hub.
  • Location and site owner (carrier) of the region’s mobile phone towers funded by the mobile blackspot program.
  • Explanation of the NSW’s State Government’s Regional Digital Connectivity Program.

Australian Government 

Mobile Black Spot Program:

The Mobile Black Spot Program is the Australian Government’s initiative to extend mobile coverage and competition in regional and remote Australia. This Program is supported by co-contributions from state and local governments, mobile network operators (Optus, Telstra and TPG Telecom), businesses and local communities. Under the first five rounds of the Program, the Government’s commitment has generated investment of more than $836 million, funding a total of 1,229 new base stations across Australia. 

On the Mid North Coast there have been 15 base stations funded by the five rounds of the Mobile Blackspot program – 13 sites are complete, with two more scheduled to be complete halfway through 2023. 

Site Name  Carrier  Site Status (carrier indicative) 
Brierfield  Optus  Complete 
Byabarra-Bagnoo Road  Telstra  Complete 
Comboyne A  Telstra  Complete 
Comboyne B  Telstra  Complete 
Ebsworth Fire Road, Booral*  Telstra  Complete 
Elands  Telstra  Complete 
Firefly  Optus  Complete 
Girvan*  Telstra  Complete 
Hickeys Creek  Telstra  Complete 
Mount Seaview  Optus  Complete 
North Dorrigo  Telstra  Complete 
Sherwood  Telstra  Complete 
Taylors Arm  Telstra  Complete 
Wherrol Flat  Telstra  Complete 
Yarrabandinni  Optus  Complete 
Lord Howe  Telstra  2023, Q2 
Millbank  Telstra  2023, Q2 

Source: Mobile Blackspot Program team. 

 To find out more about the locations of the mobile base stations funded by this program in the Mid North Coast region, check out these maps:

 The Better Connectivity Plan for Regional Rural Australia was announced by the Australian Government in the 2022-23 budget. It will provide $400 million over five years to expand regional mobile coverage along highways and roads and in underserviced regional communities. It will also support telecommunications resilience, such as preparing mobile base stations for natural disasters with additional power sources. Funding will include: 

  • $400 million to boost multi-carrier mobile coverage  on regional roads, improve mobile coverage in under-served regional and remote communities, and increase the resilience of communications services and public safety communications facilities 
  • $200 million for two additional rounds of the Regional Connectivity Program  to invest in place-based digital connectivity infrastructure projects in regional communities 
  • $30 million for on-farm connectivity, so farmers can take advantage of connected machinery and sensor technology 
  • $20 million to conduct an independent audit of mobile coverage to better identify black spots and guide investment priorities, and 
  • $6 million to boost funding for the Regional Tech Hub, which supports regional consumers to access advice and support on digital connectivity options. 

Regional Telecommunications Review is an opportunity for people living and working in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia to share their views and experiences using telecommunications services in their area. The review is conducted every three years and is important in setting the regional communications policy agenda in the following years. RDAMNC provided a submission to the 2021 review. 

The 2021 Review found a digital shift has been taking place and is continuing, prompting a change in demand. The Review emphasised the importance of reliable, modern, high-quality telecommunications to regional communities, particularly considering COVID-19 and the increased data demands of working and studying from home.  

The findings and recommendations fall in four main areas:  

  1. A more strategic, coordinated approach 
  2. More investment in digital infrastructure services and skills  
  3. Better consumer support and information  
  4. Policy and regulatory change 

Improving mobile coverage and performance, as well as broadband and enhancing the resilience of telecommunications infrastructure to natural disasters, are key focuses of the report. Read the findings and recommendations from The Review in more detail here.

*The Australian Government’s The Better Connectivity Plan for Regional Rural Australia (mentioned above) was informed by the recommendations of this review. 

Regional Tech Hub: The Regional Tech Hub offers independent advice and support and helps regional Australians navigate often confusing phone and internet options and technical issues. It has just been allocated $6 million in the 2022-23 Australian Government budget to continue its work. 

NSW State Government

Regional Digital Connectivity Program: large-scale investment with the telecommunications industry to improve mobile coverage and internet connectivity for the most underserved areas of the State. The program focuses on:  

  • Mobile Coverage – to address mobile black spots where people live and work through investment in future-proof mobile phone infrastructure and emerging technologies to deliver increased rural and regional mobile coverage; 
  • Gig State – to bring metro-level internet speeds and pricing to rural and regional NSW through investment in improved connectivity infrastructure; and 
  • Farms of the Future – to enable farmers and agribusinesses to use agricultural technologies (ag tech) for increased productivity and resource management such as water monitoring. 
  • Smart Regional Spaces – to assist regional NSW to successfully engage in the smart places movement through strategy development, new technology and data solutions. 

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