Up to $500,000 is available from Mobile Black Spot Program to improve mobile phone coverage and competition in regional and remote Australia.

 

Mobile Black Spot Program

The Mobile Black Spot Program is the Australian Government’s initiative to extend and improve mobile phone coverage and competition in regional and remote areas of Australia.

 

Background

The Government has committed $380 million to the Mobile Black Spot Program (the Program) to invest in telecommunications infrastructure to improve mobile coverage and competition across Australia. This includes $160.0 million in new funding for rounds 5 and 6 of this highly successful program, announced on 20 March 2019 as part of the Government’s response to the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review.

This Program is supported by co-contributions from state and local governments, mobile network operators (Optus, Telstra and Vodafone), businesses and local communities. Under the first four rounds of the Program (Round 1, Round 2 , the Priority Locations round and Round 4), the Government’s commitment has generated investment of more than $760 million, delivering a total of 1,047 new base stations across Australia.

The Mobile Black Spot Program will run over five funding rounds from 2014-2015 to 2021-2022, with service delivery commitments until 2032.

 

Objectives

The objectives of Round 5 of the Program are two-fold:

  • to improve mobile coverage and competition in regional and remote Australia; and
  • to improve mobile coverage at Public Interest Premises in regional and remote Australia.

 

Funding

The Commonwealth has allocated up to $80 million (GST exclusive) to Round 5 of the Program.

The maximum Commonwealth co-contribution to be provided for each Proposed Solution is $500,000 (GST inclusive) unless it is considered, in accordance with the Guidelines (see sections 5.8 to 5.11), that a higher Commonwealth co-contribution is merited, when compared to other Proposed Solutions recommended for funding under this round.

 

Eligible Projects

Solution eligibility – Mobile Coverage

To be eligible for funding under the Program, each Proposed Solution for mobile coverage must:

  • Deliver new mobile coverage and connectivity – voice and data (see section 3.2.3 of the Guidelines) – to areas which do not currently receive Handheld Coverage from the applicant’s network and which are not scheduled to receive new Handheld Coverage from a base station to be funded under previous rounds of the Program (see sections 7, stage 3 and 7.2).  For convenience, MNOs and MNIPs may wish to refer to the Database of Reported Mobile Black Spot Locations for locations nominated by members of the public as having poor coverage. These locations are not definitive or exhaustive of possible locations that may be considered as part of Proposed Solutions. Links to the database and the national map of reported black spots are available on the Department’s website at: www.communications.gov.au/mbsp
  • Not be sited at a location identified on the applicant’s 2019-20 to 2021-22 forward build network expansion or upgrade plans.
  • Provide new mobile coverage to areas which are not located within any of the Ineligible Areas, being the Urban Centres and Localities geographical units classified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2016 as ‘Major Urban’, i.e. with a population of 100,000 or more
    The Department will provide map overlays showing Ineligible Areas to eligible applicants (upon request through the method in section 7, stage 2).
  • To the extent that the predicted coverage to be provided by a Proposed Solution for mobile coverage overlaps with existing Handheld Coverage from the mobile network of other MNOs, this overlapping portion of coverage will be weighted in the assessment of applications in accordance with the Assessment Criteria in sections 6.1 to 6.8. External Antenna Coverage may be considered in the overarching value for money assessment of applications.

Solution eligibility – Public Interest Premises

To be eligible for funding under Round 5 of the Program, each Proposed Solution for a Public Interest Premises must:

  • Meet the requirements in section 4.1.1 of the Guidelines; and
  • Provide new mobile coverage to Public Interest Premises.

A Public Interest Premises is defined as a premises or location that the Program considers is used on a continuing basis for a public interest purpose, and which may include:

  • an economic centre;
  • an emergency services facility;
  • a health facility;
  • an educational facility;
  • an indigenous community organisation;
  • a local government facility; or
  • a not-for-profit organisation.

Note: Mobile solutions should not be utilised in the supply of life-critical systems.

 

Eligible Applicants

To be eligible for funding under Round 5 of the Program, an applicant must be a Mobile Network Operator or a Mobile Network Infrastructure Provider.

For the purposes of the Program, a Mobile Network Operator (MNO) means a company, other than a Mobile Network Infrastructure Provider, that:

  • supplies a public mobile telecommunications service within the meaning of the Telecommunications Act 1997; and
  • holds an apparatus or a spectrum licence (or both) for the supply of public mobile telecommunications services under the Radiocommunications Act 1992.

For the purposes of the Program, a Mobile Network Infrastructure Provider (MNIP) means a company, other than a MNO, that provides communications infrastructure in Australia or overseas, including the installation and operation of infrastructure to be used by one or more MNOs to provide public mobile telecommunications services. MNIP applications must be accompanied by evidence of a commercially binding commitment from at least one MNO to use the infrastructure to deliver mobile services as described at section 3.2 for at least 10 years.

MNOs and MNIPs may also apply jointly for funding through the Program. Joint applications must be underpinned by commercially binding arrangements or the clear intention to enter into such arrangements should the application be successful. Awards to joint applicants may be granted on the condition that the parties would enter into a binding arrangement approved by the Department prior to finalisation of the Grant Agreement.

 

Timing

Applications close 26 July 2019.

 

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