'Historic' mobile service boost

Tuesday October 31, 2023

State Government earmarks $5.5m for major Limestone Coast communications upgrade he State Government has announced one of the biggest investments in regional mobile phone coverage in the state's history providing $5.5m to boost connectivity in the Limestone Coast.

The funding will go towards Telstra's 'South East SA Project', to enable the delivery of 27 new mobile base stations across the region, adding around 2400 square kilometres of new 4G coverage.

The project now has investment from State and local government, along with local industry, and requires Federal Government funding to bring it to life.

The State Government's funding announcement comes off the back of continued advocacy from local Independent Members of Parliament Nick McBride and Troy Bell.

Premier Peter Malinauskas announced the project during a visit to Millicent as part of last week's Country Cabinet, saying the new towers would increase mobile coverage, wireless broadband, and data-sharing capabilities.

It would also provide additional Triple Zero connectivity for users of other networks in emergency situations.

This will enable more efficient communication and monitoring in the forestry, dairy, agricultural, winery, and wool industries, provide better services to large numbers of seasonal tourists, improve access to remote health services, and enhance communications to vital emergency services.

The project is part of Telstra's proposal to the Commonwealth Government's Regional Connectivity Program developed in consultation with local councils, the South Australian Forest Products Association, Primary Producers SA, Grain Producers SA, the South-East Professional Fisherman's Association, RDA Limestone Coast, and the SA Country Fire Service.

The State Government believes the project is a strong contender for funding as part of the Regional Connectivity Program and awaits funding outcome decisions from the Commonwealth Government.

Premier Malinauskas said the project was geared towards providing greater convenience for local residents and unlocking enormous potential for the region's economic output.

"The importance of dependable internet and phone coverage cannot be understated. It opens avenues for vital communication during bushfire season, e-commerce, distance learning and telemedicine - all vital for a strong, connected community," he said.

Member for MacKillop Nick McBride said mobile and internet connectivity in the Limestone Coast was "vitally important for everyday living, emergency situations and for conducting business".

"The enormity of this investment by all levels of government and Telstra cannot be understated. This will be a gamechanger for those who live and work in the region, and who contact me, frustrated with the lack of coverage through some parts of my electorate," he said..

"I am so pleased to be part of this collaborative approach, and to have helped deliver funding for what is essential infrastructure that will benefit so many in my electorate."

"I hope the Federal Government recognises its role in ensuring this announcement becomes a reality."

Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell said the commitment was a critical piece of the $27.7m overall cost and complimented Telstra's, local councils' and the forestry industries commitment to the project.

"You only have to travel five minutes outside of the City of Mount Gambier or townships heading to Adelaide and you have very poor or no phone coverage," he said.

"This is a critical project for our community and will increase safety, tourism, and the ability to use modern technology in our farming industries."

Telstra regional general manager Michael Patterson said the proposal was the largest mobile co-investment project ever proposed by Telstra in South Australia and also one of its largest ever mobile projects nationally.

"Telstra feels the application we submitted in August to the Commonwealth is strong and ambitious and will help deliver significant benefits to the area in a short timeframe," he said.

"If successful, we may look to roll this model out in other locations in future years."

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Tower Proposal: Minister for Primary Industries, Regional Development and Forestry Clare Scriven, Member for MacKillop Nick McBride, Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell, Premier Peter Malinauskas and Telstra’s Michael Patterson with a map of the proposed new tower sites.