The Coalition’s Plan to Fix Mobile Black Spots

From the Liberal Party’s website:

If elected, a Coalition government will partner with local communities, state governments and telecommunications companies to ensure that the total new investment in black spots is far greater than our $100 million commitment.

Soon as I saw this pop up on Twitter, I had a flurry of questions, like “who will build these sites?”, “where are these black spots?”, “will they have LTE support?”, “$100m doesn’t sound like a lot?” – I went digging for a more information and all that is available right now is an 8 page (6 pages if you don’t count the front and back cover) PDF on the Liberal Party website.

It’s very light on details and heavy on Labour bashing, but the Liberal Party’s pitch is that there’s many black spots of mobile phone coverage around the country and that they want to allow telcos (aka Telstra, Vodafone and Optus) to send the government a proposal co-fund (up to 50%) the building of new sites to fill in those black spots.

This idea comes from some of the findings of a regional telecommunications review conducted by the government in 2012. However, there’s no criteria for which areas are appropriate to get this funding, nor any details on what sort of sites are appropriate and if there’s the capacity for shared sites so that the government isn’t favouring one telco over another. No details on backhaul issues either.

This policy sounds like a good idea and it is correct in its assumption that lives do depend on the mobile phone network. The mobile network is now becoming the platform for basic communication and is as important as our electrical, gas and water infrastructure. But this document presented today is pretty light on how it would actually be implemented in the real world.

I would assume that even if the government was to fund up to 50% of the costs of a mobile site in remote areas, there’s still the other 50% of the costs that the telco needs to burden themselves with and they still might decide that it’s not worth spending their limited resources on such a sparsely used area by their customers.

This is a small potatoes issue in the scheme of things and probably not a deal breaker for anyone who already hasn’t decided how they’ll vote, but it’s interesting none the less, that the Liberal party thought it important enough to publish during an election campaign.