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Breakthrough – mobile reception chance at last

COMMUNITIES in South Gippsland without mobile phone reception may finally be brought into the twenty-first century.

Scouting locations: Paul Fletcher, Russell Broadbent and Adrian Harris examine a potential mobile tower site at Dumbalk North.

Scouting locations: Paul Fletcher, Russell Broadbent and Adrian Harris examine a potential mobile tower site at Dumbalk North.

Dumbalk could be one of the first towns to receive a service under the Federal Government’s $100 million Mobile Coverage Program.
The news came as fires threaten isolated communities throughout broader Gippsland, highlighting the vital role mobile phones play in people receiving emergency warnings from authorities.
The revelation also followed news that more fixed wireless facilities for the National Broadband Network are expected to be switched on from mid-2015 in Bass Coast, South Gippsland and Cardinia shire (see story page 7).
Paul Fletcher, parliamentary secretary to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, held a meeting at Dumbalk Community Centre last Wednesday to inform residents about their chances under the program.
About 40 people attended, including McMillan MP Russell Broadbent and South Gippsland Shire Councillor Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks.
Dumbalk, Dumbalk North and surrounding areas have been fighting for better mobile phone reception for more than 15 years.
However, with low population numbers, commercial providers cannot justify the cost of erecting a mobile phone tower at Dumbalk.
Mr Fletcher acknowledged the need for mobile phone coverage for business use, road safety, fire safety and interacting with city people who assume people use a mobile phone.
The government is developing a list of places where towers are required and is conducting community meetings such as the one at Dumbalk.
“We want it to reflect community priorities,” Mr Fletcher said.
The list will be based on representations made by citizens, organisations and elected representatives about locations which have poor, or no, mobile coverage; advice provided by state and territory governments; and mapping, drive testing and other relevant data.
Under the Mobile Coverage Program, the first towers will be built by the end of 2015.

The Mobile Coverage Program provides $80 million under the Mobile Network Expansion Project, to improve mobile phone coverage along major transport routes, in small communities and in locations prone to experiencing natural disasters; and $20 million under the Mobile Black Spots Project to address unique mobile coverage problems such as areas with high demand for services during seasonal holiday periods.
Mr Fletcher said the location of the towers would not be decided “on political considerations”.
Mr Broadbent foresaw the possibility that in the future, contractors may refuse to come onto a property that can’t provide adequate contact with emergency services.
Geoff Harrison of Dumbalk North recounted a recent car accident where a vehicle hit a tree and witnesses had to race to the nearest house to call an ambulance.
Police efforts were hampered in 2010 by the lack of mobile phone reception during a siege at Dumbalk North.
A man, armed with a shotgun, threatened to harm himself and police had to use the landline at a nearby farmhouse to negotiate with him.
The government is looking for ways to give mobile network providers Optus, Telstra and Vodafone incentives to operate in affected areas.
The government has outlined three possible ways to use the $80m allocated to the Mobile Network Expansion Project.
A single mobile network operator could be contracted to deliver the whole program; the government could call for bids from mobile network operators on specific base stations; or the government could call for bids from interested parties wishing to build and maintain a network of base stations and coordinate the use of the base stations by multiple mobile network operators.
The cost of a base station is $600,000 to $700,000, with the tower making up half of that cost.
Since NBN Co will be building towers, the government is seeking ways for mobile phone providers to make use of those towers to provide mobile phone coverage for areas with poor or no coverage.
The closing date for lodging submissions to the Mobile Coverage Program Discussion Paper is 5pm Friday, February 28.
To have your say, contact Mr Broadbent’s office at Warragul or email mobilecoverage@communications.gov.au,and briefly list the name of the area and reasons why mobile coverage is required.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=9974

Posted by on Feb 11 2014. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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