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With more than 400 base stations active, tens of thousands of people can now access the latest technologies across regional and rural communities to connect with friends and family in exciting new ways. The announcement comes just over a month after we switched on our 350th base station, with the rate of deployment demonstrating our commitment to the program.

Mobile coverage also brings a range of additional benefits to communities beyond making calls, and communities have jumped at the chance to use Telstra’s data services. From video chatting with family far away to using the latest in-home technology, mobile coverage is at the core of the modern, connected way of life.

More than 2,500 terabytes of data have been downloaded in the 400 areas receiving new and improved mobile coverage through the Mobile Black Spot Program – that’s the equivalent of people downloading more than half a million HD movies or 700 million songs.

Telstra is building more than 650 new mobile base stations through the three rounds of the Mobile Black Spot Program. That’s more than double the commitment of all other carriers combined and represents a total Telstra investment of $260 million.

We have a long and proud history of investing in regional Australia and over the previous three financial years have invested $2.2 billion in our regional mobile network so more Australians can experience a connected world that supports their way of life.Our contribution to the Mobile Black Spot Program complements the direct investment we have made in building Australia’s largest and fastest mobile network and together these investments have now extended our national coverage beyond the 2.5M sq. km barrier.

Adam Shepherd is employed by a New South Wales-based electricity company but works remotely from Eganstown in Victoria – around 1000 kilometres to the south. In previous months Adam had to rent an office in Ballarat, half an hour’s drive from his home, to access a reliable internet connection.

The two new mobile base stations, funded jointly by us and Federal Government under the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program, recently went live. These communities now join Smeaton, Glenlyon, Dereel and Leonards Hill in the Ballarat region who are already benefitting from new coverage.

The two new mobile base stations deliver our 3G and state-of-the-art 4GX mobile data services to the region for the first time. They are also part of $10 million of our own funds that are being spent this year (FY18) on 18 projects delivering new or improved mobile coverage for communities living, working or traveling in and around Ballarat and Western Victoria.

We won an additional 89 sites in the Priority Locations round of the Federal Government Mobile Black Spot Program, boosting the total number of Telstra locations across the three rounds of the program to more than 650 sites. That’s more than double the commitment of all other carriers combined and represents a total Telstra investment of $260 million.

Today, I’m proud to announce we’re boosting the number of base stations we’re building under the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program (MBSP), as Telstra has won an additional 89 sites in the Priority Round. 84 of these sites will be delivered through mobile base stations, and five will be delivered through our 4G small cell technology. This represents a total Telstra investment of $260 million, more than double the commitment of all the other carriers combined, to bring new coverage to regional and rural communities.

We are already past the halfway mark of our commitment to delivering more than 650 sites. Hundreds of regional and remote communities previously without coverage are now benefiting from, or will get the benefit of, our state-of-the-art mobile coverage.

Places like the iconic Bourke and Wills Road House in Queensland and regional towns like Victoria’s Gormandale – that have made more than 500,000 calls since their tower was switched on – are just some of the places already benefiting from new and improved coverage. And the advantages continue Federal MP Andrew Laming, Regional Communications Minister Bridget McKenzie, Redland City Council Mayor Karen Williams and ‎our Executive Director of Network and Infrastructure Engineering Channa Seneviratne at the launch of the latest round of the Mobile Black Spot Program.

These base stations have contributed to Telstra’s ever-expanding mobile coverage across Australia. Through the Mobile Black Spot and other network investment across Australia, Telstra’s mobile network now covers over 2.5 million square kilometres of the Australian landmass.

Last week we also celebrated switching on a base station at Carrajung Lower, Victoria, bringing mobile coverage to local residents and to drivers along the Hyland Highway, one of several base stations Telstra is building along the highway under the Mobile Black Spot Program to improve safety by keeping drivers connected to emergency services and GPS tools.

Closer to Papua New Guinea than Australia, Darnley Island is one of the Torres Strait Islands and home to around 400 residents. Known locally as Erub, and arguably the most remote location in the Mobile Black Spot Program, construction has recently commenced on the island to bring Telstra’s 3G and 4G services to the area for the first time.

We’re also bringing mobile coverage to the Burke and Wills Road House. Named for the ill-fated explorers who took this route back in the 1860s, the area is now home to a population of eight as well as visitors who come to camp in the area. Bringing mobile coverage to this area represents an iconic moment. 150 years ago, explorers traversed the area lost and confused. Imagine how different things would have been had they had mobile coverage to provide maps, information, and contact to the rest of the world.

Telstra is building a total of 577 new mobile base stations under round 1 and 2 of the Mobile Black Spot Program, more than double all of our competitors combined. Telstra’s rollout of the Mobile Black Spot Program involves co-investment of more than $490 million in regional and rural Australia, with $229 million from Telstra, $134 million from the Federal Government and tens of millions in additional funding from State and Local Governments.

Today we announced details of a new strategic partnership with Australia’s peak farm body the National Farmers Federation (NFF), to help unlock digital opportunities for Australian farmers, support thought leadership and build advocacy on behalf of regional Australia.

Together with the NFF, we see an amazing opportunity to grow Australia’s agricultural industry from $60 billion per year to a $100 billion per year industry by 2030 – and we believe technology and innovation has a key role to play in achieving this goal. Our CEO Andy Penn announcing our partnership with the NFF at the 2018 Royal Easter Show.

From IoT to 5G, to our involvement in the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program and our extensive regional mobile network investment, we’ve been busy laying the foundations for a brilliant connected world that supports our Australian way of life.

• Sensors embedded in soil will soon be able to track moisture and soil health, making it easier for farmers to efficiently distribute water and fertilisers. At the other end for the logistics chain, sensors that can detect the ripeness of food will be integrated into packaging and storage units, optimising the delivery chain for freshness and reduced wastage.

Sami Makelainen is one of 35 contributors to the National Farmers Federation’s Talking 2030 discussion paper, which looks at the long-term policies, ideas, technologies and innovation required to power Australia’s agricultural sector towards our shared 2030 ambitions.