The Mobile Network Hardening Program is an Australian Government initiative funding upgrades to improve the resilience of Australia’s mobile network telecommunications infrastructure in regional Australia to:
- prevent outages during a natural disaster;
- strengthen the resilience of telecommunications facilities to allow them to operate for longer during natural disasters; and
- support the rapid restoration of services following an outage.
Outcomes of Round 1 of the Program were announced in February 2022.
The Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia, announced in the 2022-23 Budget, provides funding for two further rounds of the Program. This new funding is part of the Government’s ongoing commitment to increase telecommunications resilience in rural, regional and remote Australia.
The Government is providing up to $15 million (GST exclusive) in Round 2 for projects that improve the resilience of mobile network infrastructure in rural, regional and remote Australia, including First Nations communities.
Round 2 is now open for applications and the Program Guidelines and Application Pack can be found on Current Grant Opportunity View - GO6460: GrantConnect (grants.gov.au). Applications are open to Mobile Network Operators, Mobile Network Infrastructure Providers, or Network Management Providers, and must be lodged by Friday 17 November 2023.
Applications will be assessed by an Assessment Committee against the criteria in section 6 of the Program Guidelines. The Assessment Committee will provide recommendations to the decision-maker.
A project noticeboard is available to communities to facilitate engagement with telecommunication companies on potential projects, allowing communities to identify potential areas of risk or potential projects for the industry applicants to consider.
Round 1 of the Mobile Network Hardening Program is providing $23.5 million (GST inclusive) in grant funding to Optus, Telstra and TPG across two stages to deliver approximately 1,000 projects to strengthen the resilience of regional telecommunications infrastructure.
The first stage is funding the enhancement of the battery backup power at 467 base stations (XLS: 28 KB) funded under the first two rounds of the Government's Mobile Black Spot Program. These upgrades will increase backup operation at these base stations to at least 12 hours.
The second stage is funding the delivery of over 532 resilience upgrades at mobile base station sites across Australia. These upgrades comprise:
- the deployment of new portable and permanent generators to supply additional back-up power during power outages;
- upgrading battery systems to increase back-up power capacity;
- adding battery extension devices to enhance existing back-up power capacity at key sites within mobile networks;
- improving transmission resilience within regional mobile network clusters to reduce single points of network failure; and
- physical hardening of sites against bushfire damage.
To date, 60 per cent of Round 1 projects have been completed, with the remaining sites scheduled to be completed in 2024.
A further round of the MNHP is expected in 2024.