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Telstra and Vodafone are making good progress with their networks

(Photo by Sandra Mu/Getty Images)

Both Telstra and Vodafone are pushing hard with their efforts to fill coverage gaps in regional Australia as part of the government’s Mobile Blackspot Programme.

Telstra who has the majority of the government contract is set to complete the construction of 66 base stations by the end of June, while Vodafone will be rolling out a dozen sites to be completed by July.

Both telcos’ base stations will be spread across the country, with rural Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australian, Victoria and Tasmania all receiving new towers.

The towers will be funded by the government as part of its $385 million program that was announced in June last year to fill in major mobile coverage blackspots across the country.

As part of that, Telstra is receiving $94.5 million from the federal government and a further $80 million from state governments to roll out 429 new 3G and 4G towers over the next three years. Vodafone secured around $20 million in funding to build 70 base stations, while Optus did not wish to participate in the program.

On top of the government funding, Telstra will be putting in $165 million of its own cash for the new towers, while Vodafone will be matching the government’s funding by chipping in another $20 million.

Both Vodafone and Optus are pushing for the Universal Services Obligation, the government program which pays Telstra $253 a year to upkeep the national copper network to be scrapped and funds be allocated to programs such as the Mobile Blackspot Programme.

A report released yesterday by Infrastructure Australia called for the same thing, saying the government needs to make it financially attractive for telcos to expand in rural areas to encourage choice and competition in those areas.

Telstra’s blackspot news comes as the company reports is half yearly earnings of $13.68 billion, up 7.6% and profits of $2.093 billion, up 0.4%.

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