Smartphone displays the NSW government's Fires Near Me app.
A new round of funding for mobile black spots comes as Australians prepare for summer bushfires. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Mobile phone coverage boost for bushfire prone areas

December 19, 2023

Communities at risk of bushfires on the fringes of major towns will split $20 million in funding to upgrade mobile coverage as Australians brace for a summer of natural disasters.

The second round of the peri-urban mobile program provides funding to mobile network operators and infrastructure providers to upgrade services in areas that suffer from longstanding coverage and reception issues.

Infrastructure sharing between operators is being encouraged to ensure Australians have better coverage as widely as possible. 

Geelong, the Gold Coast, Newcastle and the edges of major cities where the bush meets the suburbs are all included in the round of funding.

Reliable mobile coverage is an essential part of life, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said. 

“I encourage telcos, communities and other interested parties to work together to submit applications that will deliver new or improved mobile coverage in these areas,” she said. 

Australians are preparing for the worst blazes since the Black Summer fires of 2019/20 as conditions dry out bushland and heatwaves are predicted across the country.

Queensland is also battling ravaging floods that have isolated communities.

Australian Local Government Association president Linda Scott said the extra funding would be needed ahead of the bushfire season, particularly in communities at risk.

“We have long advocated for government funding to focus on prevention as well as recovery from disasters,” she told AAP.

“Black spot funding is a critical part of the emergency solution that is needed to prepare Australia for what looks to be a dangerous summer.

“We do continue to hear that especially during bushfires, it is a big risk to communities where there are telecommunication black spots.”

Ms Scott said the mobile coverage would form a crucial part of bushfire preparations on top of a $200 million commonwealth fund for local councils to help mitigate potential natural disasters.

“We’re doing everything we can to prevent what looks to be a very dangerous bushfire season, and we can take nothing for granted,” she said.

“We feel prepared as one can be, but we’re not complacent.”

City of Greater Geelong acting executive director Tennille Bradley said the mobile funding for the region was welcome.

“Mobile connectivity empowers communities, enabling seamless communication, connecting people with friend, facilitating work and enhancing overall living experiences,” she said.

“We are committed to equitable coverage across the city.”