COVERAGE is king in the bush says Optus head of network planning Vin Mullins and he is hoping to enlist the support of local communities to deliver it.
In June, Optus committed to invest $1 billion to boost coverage in regional Australia during the next 12 months, including 500 new mobile towers.
Now it wants community feedback to help determine tower locations and business partnerships to co-fund construction.
Mr Mullins said there are many locations outside the country which fall outside the criteria to win funding from the federal government’s mobile blackspot program which could nevertheless enjoy better connectivity with a new tower.
In a recent win for mobile coverage near Orange, NSW Optus, Newcrest’s Cadia mine and windfarmer Infigen Energy teamed up with local government to co-fund new tower.
“This is this first time we have done this model of co-funding with private enterprise,” Mr Mullins said.
“We are looking at ways to do this (increase mobile coverage) outside of those times when state and federal governments have capital on offer.”
Optus, which has secured funding for 114 new mobile towers with specified locations under the blackspot program, is turning to the bush for advice on the remainder of the 380-dd others to be built.
“People across the country generally all want the same thing - connectivity between sites. It’s not about islands of coverage around population centres, they want networks built out to connect them on the road, and in the paddock,” Mr Mullins said.
Local governments can play a bit part, with project planning and development consent, and like at Cadia, local business partners are often crucial.
Mr Mullins said some local communities had committed to raise funds to help entice a tower in their backyard, which often raised sums of “around five figures” which would be useful for such secondary infrastructure as access roads.
“I have a laundry list of sites where we could build,” Mr Mullins said.
“But if anyone is going to come up with a good way of doing things, it’s the practical people in the bush.
“But half the battle is letting us know where you want towers. I find communities often do a lot of work to get the in-kind support it needs.”
Mr Mullins said one group of third party helpers he would “love to come on-board” is power companies.
“They can facilitate construction of power easements, or deliver power to a site, there is any number of way they can contribute to build a mobile tower.”
Email Optus about new tower locations: email@example.com