Optus announces $1 billion plan to strengthen regional mobile and data networks

- July 21, 2017 2 MIN READ

Optus has today announced a $1 billion plan to strengthen its mobile network across regional Australia, increasing call and 4G coverage and forwarding the Federal Government’s Mobile Blackspots Program, by the end of June 2018.

Five hundred new mobile sites are expected to be built across rural and remote areas of Australia, with 114 of those to be formed under the government’s $600 million Mobile Blackspots Program, which aims to improve telecommunication infrastructure across Australia, with a focus on major regional transport routes and areas prone to natural disasters.

Announced in 2015, the government program aimed to deliver improvements across two stages that combined would deliver 765 new and upgraded mobile base stations able to introduce or improve 86,300 square kilometers of handheld coverage, 7600 kilometres of major trade routes, and serve 202,00 square kilometres of external antenna.

Areas planned for development by Optus under the government initiative include Tamworth and surrounding sites including Calala, East Piper Street, Carroll, Duri, HallsVille, and Moonbi, with nine sites to be co-developed alongside another carrier.

Speaking about the announcement, Minister for Regional Development and Regional Communications Fiona Nash said it is a huge step towards improving connectively across Australia.

“An investment of this size is a huge vote of confidence in our regions. Some 500 new towers is a great result for our regions,” she said.

Optus will also be adding extra 4G capability to more than 200 sites across Australia to help deal with the high strain during peak times and forwarding the company’s existing investment program, which it launched in 2015 to build out the company’s mobile networks.

$3.6 billion has been invested in the program thus far, which has seen the deployment of a 4G upgrade program and roll out of Optus’s “satellite small cell” technology across Western Australia.

An alternative to traditional mobile towers, the technology leverages satellite connectivity to provide mobile coverage across a space – a cheaper a more flexible option for Optus.

30 small cell sites will also be rolled out across new areas of WA, South Australia, and the Northern Territory to improve mobile coverage, while the 4G upgrade program, which improves sites from 3G to 4G, will see 1800 sites developed.

Optus CEO, Allen Lew said, “Regional communities rely on a strong mobile network to support their key industries, and to deliver critical services like healthcare and education. Through this investment, Optus will help propel regional businesses into national and international markets by providing network reliability; high speed connectivity; and advanced technologies such as cloud and cyber security services that industries need to thrive and grow.

“It will also help build the network resilience that is critical to supporting public safety and emergency services during natural disasters.”

While mobile coverage looks set to improve across regional Australia, basic internet coverage lags behind. Despite the continued rollout of the NBN, coverage in regional areas still remains an issue, with a number of communities still operating on dial up internet.

To combat the problem, last year saw a dozen advocacy groups launch a coalition in to champion for better communication services and end the enduring ‘data drought’.

Image: Allen Lew. Source: Supplied.