Many parts of Australia’s regional and remote areas have no, or poor, mobile phone voice and data reception, affecting quality and reliability of services.
While Australia’s mobile phone networks cover most individuals at home, there is limited service in many regional and remote areas (known as mobile blackspots) reducing mobile phone access for individuals when they travel and for some regional and remote communities.
Digital connectivity will become more important as the economy adjusts to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for regional and remote communities.
The lack of connectivity disadvantages Australians in these areas who rely on mobile connections for social inclusion and access to services, such as health (for example, telehealth), education (for example, online distance education) and other welfare services, as physical services are often not cost effective to provide in these areas.
Access to reliable telecommunications can also be critical in emergency situations such as extreme weather, bushﬁres, ﬂooding or serious trauma incidents, such as road accidents. A lack of mobile coverage can delay response times, thereby increasing the risk of lasting harm or loss of property.
Improved coverage can beneﬁt regional and remote business with access to new markets, business support services and technologies, such as digital farming practices. It also supports economic participation among isolated communities.
The 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit acknowledges that mobile services in regional, rural and remote areas can be costly and poor quality, and that coverage gaps affect community safety, liveability and productivity.
The Australian Government is funding remote and regional mobile telecommunications improvements through programs such as the $380 million Mobile Black Spot Program. The ﬁrst ﬁve rounds of this program are funding the delivery of 1,229 new base stations in regional and remote Australia. More work is required to fully address the issue.
The initiative is to improve the availability and quality of mobile services in certain regional and remote areas.
Locations for consideration for greater prioritisation should include the national transport network, regions with elevated risk of emergency or threat, as well as communities with barriers to economic and social participation (such as remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities).
Proponent(s) to be identified.