The first audit of Australia’s worst mobile coverage black spots could begin within months with the federal government opening tenders for the $20 million project.
The national audit, which is due to begin next year, will determine where investment is needed to keep consumers connected while checking the accuracy of coverage maps from Australia’s major phone carriers.
Companies will have until November 15 to bid for the project, which is expected to take five years to complete.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said mapping gaps in Australia’s telecommunications coverage would be vital to improving connections in regional and rural Australia.
Ms Rowland said the government’s request for tenders was “another important step” in delivering a national coverage blueprint.
“This audit will help identify mobile black spots and capacity issues where local experience doesn’t reflect predictive maps, allowing us to better target investment and policy options that help people get and remain connected,” she said.
The request for tenders, which was issued on Tuesday, comes after the government collected views on the audit from the telecommunications industry, consumers, local government and community groups during July and August.
The audit is expected to be tested in a pilot, before a comprehensive process incorporating crowd-sourced data and existing coverage reports.
The audit is part of the government’s Better Connectivity Plan detailed in the 2022 budget, announced in addition to the existing Mobile Black Spot Program that has invested $875 million to install 1297 mobile base stations across Australia.
The program has been operating since 2013, with co-contributions from carriers including Telstra, Optus and TPG as well as state and local governments.
Research from GSMA Intelligence showed Australians were using 32.7 million mobile connections by January this year, up by 1.2 million from 2022.
(Australian Associated Press)