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.
Yarramalong generator upgrade
As announced during the 2022 Federal Election, the Australian Government has committed up to $140,000 in funding to improve mobile network resilience in the community of Yarramalong, NSW.
The funding will contribute towards the cost of deploying a permanent, on-site generator at the Telstra mobile base station in Yarramalong. This will improve the resilience of Telstra mobile services for the community of Yarramalong in the event of power outages (including during or after natural disasters), supporting public safety communications and access to essential digital services.
In order to meet Commonwealth grant requirements and ensure a value for money outcome, Telstra has been invited to submit a proposal to deliver the upgrade to its Yarramalong base station. On 1 November 2023 the Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP released the targeted ad-hoc Grant Opportunity Guidelines to Telstra. Once Telstra's proposal is received, the department will assess it against the Grant Guidelines which will include an assessment against achieving value with relevant money.
Following the assessment process, a recommendation will be provided to the decision-maker. It is expected the outcome will be announced in late 2023.
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.