news Vodafone has announced it is to spend $9 million expanding its regional mobile network over the next 18 months.
The investment will see the telco setting up 32 new mobile base stations in New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia.
Benoit Hanssen, the firm’s Chief Technology Officer, said most of the 32 new sites would be operational by the end of the year, with the rollout to be completed by the end of 2017.
“Vodafone is committed to increasing coverage and choice for customers in regional Australia, and we’ve identified 32 sites which will build on our growth in areas outside the major metropolitan centres,” Hanssen said.
The CTO pointed out that many people living in regional and rural Australia don’t have access to reliable mobile coverage or a choice of provider. But Vodafone, he said, is “determined to drive change”.
“Over recent years, we have invested billions of dollars in our network to deliver improved access to fast, reliable mobile services, and we want to offer more Australians the coverage and competition they need and deserve,” said Hanssen.
The 32 new base station locations are in addition to the 70 sites Vodafone is building as part of Round One of the Mobile Black Spot Programme, Vodafone said in a statement.
Vodafone’s Chief Strategy Officer, Dan Lloyd, said the company would continue to push to improve the situation for regional customers within the telecommunications policy and regulatory space.
“With the Federal Election campaign now underway, we’re reminding both [sides] of politics of the importance of reliable and affordable 21st century telecommunications services in regional Australia,” Lloyd said.
He suggested that, whichever party wins the election, it is “crucial” that they ensure the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the current Universal Service Obligation (USO) arrangements leads to “meaningful change which benefits customers”.
“We think the $300 million in funding provided to Telstra every year to maintain an outdated copper network and payphones in regional areas could be much better spent,” said Lloyd.
Setting up a permanent Mobile Black Spot Programme, potentially using some of the USO funds, would “substantially increase” the number of regional areas to benefit from increased coverage and choice, he said.
“We’ve also put a proposal to government to buy, at market price, some of the unsold 700MHz spectrum which would allow us to extend our network further, bringing the coverage and choice customers in regional areas need,” Lloyd concluded.
In late April, the Federal Government asked the Productivity Commission to conduct an inquiry into the USO in order to examine the “role and relevance” of the arrangements in today’s changing telecoms market.