WHEN Andrew Shepherd uses his mobile phone at his Kybybolite farm, it involves walking around the paddock to find a bar of signal he hopes will last long enough.
Signal is patchy at best, but the announcement Kybybolite and five other SA locations would receive Telstra phone towers as part of the Mobile Black Spot Program came as a relief following three years of lobbying by the community.
“It’s fantastic news for us,” Mr Shepherd said.
Kybybolite is situated between two towers, one at Naracoorte, the other at Aspley, Vic, and Mr Shepherd said the town was at the “crossover point”, struggling to get any service, even in the township.
“In the last few months, we have had major issues with phone services, and most of us aren’t family members, farmers or business owners, we are also part of the emergency services,” he said.
“We have had some big fires, and the service during these times has been an issue.”
Farmers have equipped their vehicles with signal boosters, but Mr Shepherd said he would hold off installing one following the tower announcement.
Across Australia 125 identified priority black spot locations will gain improved mobile coverage, by either new towers or additional small cell towers.
Optus, Telstra and Vodafone will receive $45.6 million in Commonwealth funding to improve coverage, with the SA locations to be constructed by Telstra.
Priority locations were gathered from the national database, which was formed during the 2016 mobile black spot campaign where the general public and election candidates listed areas of concern.
The coalition government identified 125 locations from the campaign believed to be of priority locations.
Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie welcomed priority towers for Kangaroo Island and Ashbourne, and was pleased the towers would have at least 12 hours of backup power.
While it is only half the 24-hour backup power outlined in her Telecommunications Amendment (Guaranteeing Mobile Phone Service in Bushfire Zones) Bill 2017, Ms Sharkie said it was a step forward from three to four hours of backup battery supplies presently in place.
But she was concerned more towns would miss out on vital telecommunications upgrades when round three was completed.
“We still have so many areas in our electorate where you cannot receive reliable mobile phone coverage,” she said.
With two towers announced for Kalangadoo and Kybybolite, Member for Barker Tony Pasin said the new coverage would open doors for local businesses and the community – allowing them the same services as major city centres.
SA gains priority location coverage
PRIORITY locations identified for upgrades in the latest round of black spot finding include Ashbourne, Bute/Alford, Gosse/Stokes Bay, Kalangadoo, Kybybolite and Robertstown, which will receive Telstra Macro Base Stations.
Marree and Wynarka have been listed to receive Optus Small Cell base stations as part of round two funding.
Telstra area general manager for SA Mark Bolton said as part of the program, Telstra would be constructing an additional six mobile base station sites in SA, and improving coverage at 89 sites across Australia.
“Mobile coverage has become so essential for our safety, work, education and social connection that we need to make sure our communities are better serviced,” he said.
“If it means more financial incentives for telecommunication companies, then we must continue the black spot program.”