Hepburn Shire residents are set to have improved mobile phone coverage in time for next summer’s fire season.
Construction on new Telstra mobile base stations is currently underway at Bullarto and Eganstown. Work at new base stations at Denver and Lyonville is expected to begin later in the year, according to a Telstra spokesperson.
Funding for improved mobile coverage in Hepburn Shire was announced as part of round one of the federal government’s mobile black spot program, marking the roll out of 499 new mobile base stations across the country over three years from 2015.
Hepburn Shire Councillor Sebastian Klein said the installation of mobile base towers in the region would be a great relief to communities who have been waiting for mobile coverage for some time.
“Broadly the consensus these days with the fire safety risk particularly is we are better off having them than not,” Cr Klein said.
“The thing recently that has convinced the community that it is worth the intrusion of the outside world and the visual impact is the community safety issue.”
Witnesses to a house fire in Eganstown in January 2016 said it took almost 15 minutes to make contact with emergency service authorities because of a lack of mobile coverage.
Authorities were eventually notified of the blaze when a nearby resident called from a landline, after passersby attempted to call from a mobile around 10 times.
Cr Klein said Hepburn Shire Council staff pushed for the shire to receive a number of towers because of the high number of fire risk towns in the region.
“We had a really concerted effort by our economic development team and some really great work done that saw Hepburn Shire receive more funding in round one for more towers than anywhere else in the country,” Cr Klein said.
“The other factor that the economic team took note of was the fact that people increasingly need to be in contact because they either work from home or in their daily lives need to be in contact with the outside world.”
The installation of Telstra mobile base stations in Glenlyon and Leonards Hill was completed last year.
Moorabool Shire’s Blackwood, notorious for poor mobile coverage, also received a local site upgrade as part of the mobile black spot program.
A number of factors can influence coverage including local topography, obstructions such as trees and other structures and building materials, as well as how far a person is from the nearest base station, a Telstra spokesperson said.