Telstra and Optus have won the lion’s share of the $60 million in federal government funding available from the second round of the government’s mobile blackspots programme.
Telstra will be funded to build 148 new towers and Optus 114. The build will be jointly funded by the carriers themselves and by the Commonwealth, state and local governments, with total funding commitments amounting to $213 million.
Vodafone, which has been funded to build only 4 towers, has criticised the second round decision as unfairly favouring its rivals, Telstra in particular.
It has pointed to the fact that Telstra has now won funding for 75% of the total number of sites available under the first two rounds of the programme.
This is hardly surprising though. Telstra has the most extensive mobile network and the additional costs of adding another base station at the margin of that network are likely to be lower than those faced by the other carriers.
Both Optus and Telstra have also suggested that the results reflect the fact that they are the ones who have been most willing to put money on the table themselves. The Optus bid, in particular, probably leveraged off the increased investment that the company is already making in regional areas.
Vodafone, on the other hand, can be expected to renew its push for “declaration” of mobile roaming services i.e. for regulated access to its rivals’ networks in the name of bringing competition to the bush.