Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet

Telstra announced on Monday it was opening a AU$200 million co-investment fund for regional mobile coverage to run over the next four years.

The telco said it will be looking to partner with governments, local councils, and businesses to make regional projects viable.

“We have seen great success from this type of approach in the past, with Telstra investing over AU$120 million in such projects over the last few years,” Telstra CEO Andy Penn said.

“Our investments … have increased capacity in our network year on year to cater to the around 40% per annum growth in our customer’s traffic demand, and we have been able to extend our coverage up to 100,000 square kilometres each year.”

The telco also said it was putting an extra AU$150 million towards improving its regional networks.

“These include improving coverage at popular destination spots in regional areas, capacity upgrades, the upgrade of 3G only sites to 4G and building new 4G sites, technology development for long range sites and small cells with satellite backhaul,” Penn said.

“Last week when the government announced the result of the Regional Connectivity Program funding, Telstra was the only major retail provider to win projects and commit funding to improve services.

“In the [Commonwealth’s] Mobile Black Spot Program, Telstra has put up three times more capital than the rest of the industry put together, and we are building more than 75% of all of the mobile black spot towers in the program.”

From the Regional Connectivity Program (RCP), Telstra is set to be involved in 30 projects at a cost of AU$16 million from the telco, AU$13 million from state and local governments, and AU$26 million from the Commonwealth.

One big ticket item is the AU$9.8 million project to provide a six-fold upgrade to King Island connectivity and set up a 110km radio link across Bass Strait back to Victoria.

The telco will also be involved in a AU$8.3 million fibre upgrade in East Arnhem, a AU$6.3 million network upgrade in Gippsland, a AU$5.6 million upgrade in Far North South Australia, and a AU$5.3 million transmission upgrade to Mornington Island. Another AU$19.3 million will be allocated to 25 projects to improve mobile connectivity.

Meanwhile, Western Australia detailed the projects that will make up the AU$23 million of RCP improvements. The federal government is kicking in AU$17.1 million, while WA puts forward AU$5.88 million of funding.

Among the projects are eight mobile coverage improvements from Telstra, two mobile coverage upgrades from Pivotel, three projects upgrading fixed wireless coverage, two improving satellite broadband connectivity, and one project in excess of AU$3 million to shift from satellite coverage to fibre to the premise in Halls Creek.

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