Country’s project to tackle mobile black spots enters its fourth phase just days after hitting new base stations milestone

Australia has activated 600 base stations as part of a government-backed project to improve mobile coverage across the country.

The Department of Communications and the Arts announced on Saturday that the 600th site had gone live in the past week and on Monday called for applications from mobile operators and infrastructure providers to take part in the next round of the scheme, known as the Mobile Black Spot Program.

Under the Mobile Black Spot Program, which dates back to 2015, the government has committed to providing A$220 million (€136 million) in funding to roll out new base stations in regional and remote Australia. State and local governments, mobile network operators (Optus, Telstra and Vodafone), businesses and local communities are also investing in the scheme.

The first three rounds of the project garnered a total investment of A$680 million-plus, and will ultimately see 867 new base stations installed.

The biggest contributor on the mobile operator side is Telstra, which said it has contributed A$260 million in funding to build more than 650 new sites under the first three rounds of the programme.

Optus secured funding in round two and agreed to contribute A$36.4 million to deploy 65 mobile base stations and 49 satellite small cells, while Vodafone is spending A$20 million on 75 base stations.

The government released guidelines for round four of the project on Monday and revealed that operators and infrastructure firms will have until 10 December to submit their applications.