blog Did you know there were other telecommunications-related issues being discussed in the Federal Election campaign than the National Broadband Network? No? Neither did I. But there apparently are. According to the Herald Sun (we recommend you click here for the full article), the Coalition is planning to spend $100 million on fixing mobile blackspots, principally, it appears, by co-locating new mobile infrastructure with NBN wireless towers. The Hun tells us:
“The Opposition Leader will today pledge that if the Coalition wins the election, the money will be spent over four years to build base stations in regional, remote and outer metropolitan areas to improve mobile phone coverage.”
To be honest, this is a little bit of a weird policy, at first look. It simply doesn’t make much sense for NBN Co to be building out its own mobile infrastructure, as the Herald Sun’s article implies. It would make quite a bit more sense if what the Coalition is actually doing is planning a direct subsidy to companies like Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to deploy mobile coverage further out in the regions, to fix blackspots. And it would make sense for the Government to volunteer NBN Co’s wireless tower infrastructure to help with such an effort. But if the Coalition is truly planning to deploy its own cell tower network, that is something which we would question. More details as we get them.
Update: We’ve received the following statement from Communications Minister Anthony Albanese and Regional Communications Minister Sharon Bird:
The Coalition has no credibility when it comes to delivering telecommunications to regional and rural Australia, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Anthony Albanese said today.
“While I welcome Tony Abbott and the Coalition’s belated interest in regional communities, it’s a pity they couldn’t be bothered ‘fixing’ the issue the last time they were in government, despite having 12 years to do so. Now they expect us to believe that given a second chance they will do the job right. They must think we’re all mugs.”
“When the Coalition was last in Government, they abandoned regional Australia when they privatised Telstra. This delivered nothing to regional Australia except higher prices and less competition. The Coalition presided over 22 failed broadband plans and voted 14 times against Labor’s National Broadband Network (NBN), the largest ever investment in regional telecommunications in our country’s history. If elected, the Coalition will slug regional Australians with higher prices for broadband than people living in the cities. The Liberals and Nationals simply can’t be trusted when it comes to delivering better and more affordable telecommunications for regional Australia.”
Minister for Regional Communications, Sharon Bird said the Coalition’s mobile black spot policy will have limited impact.
“Through the Rudd Labor Government’s NBN fixed wireless rollout, hundreds of towers are already being built across regional, rural, and outer metropolitan Australia. “NBN Co has already entered into agreements with both Telstra and Optus to use NBN infrastructure to improve mobile coverage. This approach allows better mobile coverage for customers and more choice for people in rural and regional areas.”