The Mobile Black Spot Program (the MBSP) is a Government initiative that invests in telecommunications infrastructure to improve mobile coverage and competition across Australia.
The MBSP is supported by co-contributions from state and local governments, Mobile Network Operators (Optus, Telstra, TPG Telecom Ltd (formerly Vodafone) and Field Solutions Group), businesses and local communities.
Under the MBSP to date (Rounds 1 to 5A), the Australian Government's commitment has generated a total investment of more than $875 million, to deliver up to 1,297 new mobile base stations across Australia.
For more information about the MBSP, including information on how the locations of base stations were selected, see the Mobile Black Spot Program's FAQs page.
As part of the Government's Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia (Better Connectivity Plan), funding to expand regional mobile coverage is available for a competitive grant Round 7 of the MBSP.
This is a combined grant opportunity up to $160 million (GST exclusive), bringing together the MBSP and the Regional Connectivity Program in two streams, to improve mobile and broadband connectivity in regional, rural and First Nations communities across Australia:
- A $50 million Mobile Black Spot (Round 7) stream that delivers new handheld mobile coverage to rural, regional and remote locations across Australia, and
- A $110 million Regional Connectivity (Round 3) stream for place-based solutions that deliver new or upgraded broadband services or upgraded mobile services in eligible locations across Australia.
This $160 million funding includes $32.5 million dedicated to improving telecommunications services in First Nations communities and contribute towards achieving Target 17 of the Closing the Gap initiative, which aims to ensure First Nations people have equal levels of digital inclusion by 2026. The dedicated First Nations funding comprises:
- $7.5 million under the Mobile Black Spot (Round) 7 stream for solutions that provide new mobile coverage in First Nations communities
- $15 million under the Regional Connectivity (Round 3) stream for solutions that improve telecommunications infrastructure in First Nations communities across eligible locations in Australia, and
- a further $10 million for solutions aimed at improving digital connectivity for First Nations communities in Central Australia.
Applications for MBSP Round 7 funding closed on 11 August 2023. Applications are now being competitively assessed. The outcomes will be announced after this process has been completed.
The opportunity to comment on the Draft Grant Opportunity Guidelines for this combined Round was provided through public consultation from 20 December 2022 until 10 February 2023. You can view public submissions on the Department's Have Your Say page.
The Better Connectivity Plan mobile coverage commitment will build on the outcomes delivered under previous rounds of the MBSP.
Improving Mobile Coverage Round
On 19 October 2023, the Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP, announced grants totalling $37.2 million to deliver improved mobile coverage and quality of service to 42 Target Locations through the Improving Mobile Coverage Round (IMCR) of the MBSP. An additional four Target Locations are expected to receive improved mobile coverage from existing projects under other regional communications grant programs and commercial investment.
The IMCR is implementing the Government's commitments to improve mobile coverage and quality of service at 54 Target Locations across rural, regional and remote Australia.
The IMCR used a competitive merit-based grants process to award funding, in accordance with the public Grant Opportunity Guidelines published on the Grant Connect website.
Applications for funding were sought from Mobile Network Operators and Mobile Network Infrastructure Providers to address identified issues at the Target Locations.
The design of the IMCR was informed by feedback from members of the public and the telecommunications industry. Further information on the public consultation process that was undertaken is available at Have your say opportunity guidelines for the Improving Mobile Coverage Round Mobile Black Spot Program.
Unfortunately, the IMCR did not result in outcomes for 12 Target Locations:
- five locations did not receive applications;
- four locations received applications which were assessed by the department as not delivering value for money; and
- three locations received applications that the department assessed did not satisfy the technical coverage or solution requirements of the Guidelines.
Four of these locations are expected to receive coverage improvements from projects previously funded under the Regional Connectivity Program (RCP) and Peri‑Urban Mobile Program (PUMP), or through commercial solutions.
The department is considering options to further test industry solutions at two of the unsuccessful Target Locations (Majors Creek and Mangrove Mountain) where there is a reasonable prospect that a value for money solution may exist.
The remaining six Target Locations (Breera Brand Highway, Carwoola, Queenstown, Wee Jasper, Monaro Highway and Herne Hill) are not being progressed further through the IMCR as there is a low chance of success at this time, noting the option for mobile carriers and infrastructure providers to submit applications in future competitive grant rounds, including the MBSP, Regional Connectivity Program (RCP) and Peri-Urban Mobile Program (PUMP).
Following Round 7, there will be further opportunities under the Government's Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia through the $400 million committed to boost multi-carrier mobile coverage on regional roads, improve mobile coverage in underserved regional and remote communities, and increase the resilience of communications services and public safety communications facilities.
MBSP rollout update—September 2023
The MBSP is delivering improved coverage outcomes and benefits to the Australian community with 1,106 base stations activated as at 30 September 2023.
Base stations funded under Rounds 1-5A are currently scheduled to be operational by 30 June 2024.
Base station delays
Due to a range of external factors outside of the direct control of the mobile network operators, some base stations have experienced delays and require additional time in order to be delivered.
Additional information on delays can be found on the Mobile Black Spot Program's FAQs page.
Base stations that are no longer required or cannot be built
Under the MBSP there are a small number of planned base stations that cannot be built at the original scheduled location. In these cases, the mobile network operator will explore all options to deliver new and improved coverage to the original planned area including investigating alternative sites.
There are also a small number of base stations that are no longer required to be built as coverage is now being delivered by one or more base stations nearby. In these cases, the funding for the original base station has been used to fund an alternative site.
Further information, including a list of alternative sites and a list of base stations that will no longer be built under the MBSP, is available on the Mobile Black Spot Program's FAQs page.
Mobile Black Spot Program
GPO Box 594
Canberra ACT 2601
Additional information and resources
- Mobile Black Spot Program discussion paper
- Mobile Black Spot Program—Round 1 guidelines
- Round 1 funded base stations (499)—link to data.gov
- Round 1 funded base stations (499)—(XLSX 168KB)
- National map of Round 1 base stations
- Mobile Black Spot Program—Round 2 guidelines-version 1.1
- Round 2 funded base stations (266)—link to data.gov
- Round 2 funded base stations (266)—(XLSX151KB)
- National Map of Round 2 base stations
Priority Locations Round (Round 3)
- The Priority Locations Grant Guidelines are available on GrantConnect
- List of 125 priority locations and their outcomes
- Priority Locations Round funded base stations (102)—link to data.gov
- Priority Locations Round funded base stations (102)—(XLSX 141KB)
- National Map of Priority Locations Round base stations
- The Round 4 Grant Guidelines are available on GrantConnect
- Round 4 funded base stations (180)—link to data.gov
- Round 4 funded base stations (180)—(XLSX 147KB)
- National Map of Round 4 base stations
- The Round 5 Grant Guidelines are available on GrantConnect
- Round 5 funded base stations (182)—link to data.gov
- Round 5 funded base stations (182)—[XLSX 149KB]
- National Map of Round 5 base stations
- The Round 5A Grant Guidelines are available on GrantConnect
- Round 5A funded base stations (67)—link to data.gov
- Round 5A funded base stations (67)—[XLSX 142KB]
Improving Mobile Coverage Round
- The IMCR Grant Guidelines are available on GrantConnect
- 54 Improving Mobile Coverage Round Target Locations