Regional telecommunications carrier Field Solutions Holdings (ASX: FSG) will join forces with Optus to deliver broadband and mobile infrastructure and services to Australia’s rural and remote customers.
The partnership falls under Round 5 of the federal government’s $380 million Mobile Black Spot Program which aims to improve mobile coverage and competition across the country over six stages (or rounds).
Field Solutions has become the first mobile network infrastructure provider outside of the nation’s three main operators – namely Optus, Telstra (ASX: TLS) and Vodafone Hutchison Australia (ASX: HTA) – to be awarded funding under the program.
Since 2017, Field Solutions has been building an extensive network in rural parts of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, locating telecommunications towers in areas where there was previously little or no acceptable services.
The terms of the Round 5 partnership will see Optus co-locate on Field’s infrastructure via a bi-lateral infrastructure agreement which will allow the companies to share rural telecommunications towers and sites.
Optus will also deliver a competitive national broadband network (NBN) points of interconnect (POI) “backhaul”, defined as the infrastructure required to connect new developments to the wider telecommunications network.
Field Solutions chief executive officer Andrew Roberts said the Optus deal will benefit all rural customers.
“This is an extremely positive development for residents, agribusinesses and businesses of regional and remote Australia,” he said.
“We are extremely proud to be working alongside Optus … we share a common desire to ensure our target communities receive true broadband and mobile services with a range of connectivity and communications options.”
The agreement will also allow Field Solutions to expand its connectivity to NBN’s 121 national POIs.
“As a a strong supporter of the NBN, we recognise the need to deliver cost-effective business services to rural and remote customers,” Mr Roberts said.
“We have combined our Optus backhaul and NBN’s enterprise ethernet suite to deliver a cost-effective package of business-grade connectivity services.”
Inadequate mobile phone coverage remains a significant issue for Australians living, working and travelling in regional areas of the country.
According to a 2013 government paper, Optus, Telstra and Vodafone are believed to collectively provide mobile coverage to 99% of the population, which equates to around just 25% of the landmass.
The Mobile Black Spot Program is designed to improve mobile phone services in locations with unique coverage problems such as small communities which experience increased population (and reliance on a mobile network) during peak seasonal periods.
Field Solutions said it would commence network planning for Round 5 this month, with construction activities scheduled to begin soon after.