The federal government's $100 million program to boost mobile coverage in regional and rural Australia is now underway. While the program won't stop all of us from having to stand on car roofs or hang out of trees to get a signal, this fresh investment is a welcome step.

Man holding up mobile phone, searching for coverage

On offer is $80 million toward building new mobile towers in areas with poor coverage, with a $20 million component for blackspots in areas prone to natural disasters or subject to seasonal demand. It's expected that the telcos will match the government's funding for a total of $200 million.

Although consultation on the program design closed in February, the Department of Communications still wants to hear from communities to help identify areas in need. It is important to remember that infrastructure will need to be commercially sustainable in order to get the green light so the most remote areas probably don't have the best chance.

At a forum hosted by ACCAN in February, Parliamentary Secretary for Communications Paul Fletcher reported that 800 locations had already been reported.

Clearly with such massive demand for better coverage in the bush, not everyone is going to have their wish list met. But there are ways for rural communities to prepare good cases for any future funding opportunities.

Preparing your best case for future funding

The important thing is that Optus, Telstra and Vodafone are all saying they welcome greater involvement from communities. Their tips are:

  • Communities need to show the value of investment in their area.
  • Local government is best placed to coordinate the effort and make the case.
  • Consult widely in the community and get everyone on board so that the providers feel confident that the position of a new tower, for example, is going to be accepted and welcomed by locals.
  • Investigate in-kind contributions, such as a local government giving access to services and land, because they are as valuable as direct funding and can have a big influence.
  • Provide a ready-made plan for suggested sites, streamlined planning permission and land access.

In the meantime, contact the Department of Communications to let them know your area needs better mobile coverage, or reach for the phone and call your local council to have them put mobile coverage on their agenda – if you can get reception that is.

If you have an area you'd like included on the list of areas in need, locations can be reported via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through the Department hotline 1800 113 486. The Department suggests stating simply and concisely the location of the blackspot or poor coverage area and says you get no advantage from multiple or lengthy submissions.

This article is an op-ed by ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin.


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