Jack Manning | The Victor Harbor Times (May 5 2020)
The Kuitpo region is set to receive improved mobile phone coverage as part of the federal government’s Mobile Black Spot Program.
A new mobile base station will be constructed by Optus in Kuitpo as part of Round 5 of the $380 million program.
Round 5 base stations are scheduled to roll out in the coming months, with the first new base stations expected to be activated by the end of the year.
Senator for South Australia Andrew McLachlan said the new base station would provide improved mobile coverage and would help regional families and friends connect, access quality education and health services and do business globally.
“This new base station will provide locals and the surrounding communities improved mobile connectivity and particularly assist our local wineries, vineyards and their visitors,” Mr McLachlan said.
This round of funding will provide 182 new base stations for regional and remote communities across the country, bringing the total number funded by the Mobile Black Spot Program to 1229.
New base station sites in South Australia include Kuitpo, Legges Lane and Koonibba.
Member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie welcomed the allocation of funding by the federal government for the new base station in Kuitpo, but said it failed to “address the enormous backlog of mobile black spots in Mayo”.
“Mayo has more than 130 nominated mobile blackspot sites and we’ve only managed to secure eight sites since the program started in 2015 before I was elected to office, and only half of them are in service which is really frustrating for my community,” Ms Sharkie said.
“This round I lobbied Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to consider 12 priority sites, including Kuitpo, but also Forest Range, Cudlee Creek, Biggs Flat, Waitpinga, Myponga, Vivonne Bay, Kanmantoo/Callington and Clayton.
“I am concerned that with each successive round, base station sites in regional areas are being considered less economical for the mobile network operators.”
Ms Sharkie said the federal government had only allocated $34 million of the available $80 million as part of Round 5 of the project, but that it was looking at conducting a Round5A; using the leftover $46 million, to test a range of different programs to improve mobile connectivity.
“I understand the criteria for 3G compatibility was one sticking point for telcos, as well as the opportunities for telcos to share infrastructure, and I understand these issues will be examined in the Discussion Paper on Round5A.”
Ms Sharkie encouraged the community to submit feedback in the open Discussion Paper on options for the design of the next round.
South Australian Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Tim Whetstone said ensuring effective mobile communications in regional areas was an essential part of driving the state’s economic growth.
“The announcement of these locations for new base stations is a significant step forward in our regional areas towards addressing this ongoing mobile black spot problem, an issue which has been identified by the state government as a priority,” Mr Whetstone said.
“South Australia’s regions contribute approximately $25 billion a year to the state’s economy and connectivity is essential not only to driving regional growth but also the economic growth for the whole state.”
Under Round 5 of the project, $7.9 million will be invested in mobile infrastructure in South Australia. This includes $3.8 million funding from the Commonwealth and over $900,000 from the South Australian Government.
Across the five rounds, the Mobile Black Spot Program has generated a total investment of over $836 million Australia-wide, including co-contributions from the states and mobile network operators.