Local mobile coverage woes continue

EVER since 2014, when the Liberal/National Party federal government instigated the Mobile Black Spot Program initiative, the Glass House Mountains area has been identified as a problem area time and time again.

Many reasons have been given for poor reception … even electromagnetic interference from the Glass House Mountains.

Although there have been some improvements in service since then, thanks to investment through the initiative and by individual mobile communication providers, the mobile phone coverage locally remains sub-par compared to other areas.

Glass House Mountains local Mike Hoban recently shared with GC&M News his plight since moving here in October 2019.

Mr Hoban was taken aback by the lack of or low level of mobile phone coverage here. Fortunately, the previous owners of his family’s house had a Telstra smart antenna fitted at a cost of more than $1,500 because of the poor coverage.

“After we managed to get this operational again, we were able to get some level of satisfactory signal inside our house,” Mr Hoban said.

“All of our neighbours advised us that this lack of signal was the norm in Glass House and that they simply had to stand outside to get mobile phone coverage.”

Mr Hoban didn’t think it was good enough that people had to put up with poor coverage or pay a small fortune to get barely usable reception.

He tried talking with Telstra about the poor signal strength and its plans for improving the mobile phone network locally, pointing out that he believed the major reason for the poor signal strength was the location of the only tower in the area.

He was told that if he wasn’t happy with the service that he could always go to another provider or complain to the Telecommunications Ombudsman. He did approach  the Ombudsman to request assistance in rectifying the poor coverage.

“I approached Optus about changing to them and they told me that they couldn’t provide very good coverage because of the poor signal strength,” Mr Hoban said.

“Going to the Telecommunications Ombudsman wasn’t helpful as they can only deal with an issue between Telstra and a client (me) and not on behalf of the broader community.

“All the Ombudsman could do was to facilitate further communications with Telstra.”

Mr Hoban approached the federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace and his staff to raise his concerns.

To date, Mr Hoban says that the response he has received has been completely underwhelming.

“I approached Andrew Wallace in August last year and discussed this issue as well as the fact that the new tower off Old Gympie Road had not improved the coverage in the area,” Mr Hoban said.

“I only received an auto-response ‘thank you’ email following our meeting and subsequent follow-ups with Mr Wallace’s staff have achieved little … but they keep referring to the NBN network and not addressing my issues to do with the mobile phone network.”

A frustrated Mr Hoban would like to know why the existing mobile phone towers aren’t providing adequate service.

“I’d like to know why the tower down from the Jeffreys Road/Coulon Road intersection on the other side of Steve Irwin Way at Glass House can’t be improved. Surely that would provide better reception to the area, particularly given the increasing population in the area?”

Mr Hoban believes that tower is mounted too low and is surrounded by tall vegetation that is blocking the signals.

GC&M News asked Mr Wallace what had happened locally to address concerns such as Mr Hoban’s. Mr Wallace told us he had been working hard to bring better mobile telephone reception to the hinterland since his election in 2016.

“During that time the federal government has funded the construction of four new mobile towers in our region – at Glass House Mountains, Beerwah, Peachester and Conondale – as well as providing funding for an emergency battery power supply on the mobile tower at Maleny-Kenilworth Road,” Mr Wallace said.

“However, I am also very aware that for many in the hinterland their mobile reception is still not good enough.”

Although the latest round of the Mobile Black Spot program is closed, Mr Wallace said that $80 million for another round was expected to open soon and could bring improved coverage to our region.

“I would strongly urge anyone in the region who experiences consistently poor reception to contact my office directly and let me know about it,” Mr Wallace said.

“I can pass that information on to the government and ensure that the Sunshine Coast hinterland is considered for even more mobile black spot towers as part of the coming round.”

As for the existing tower at Glass House, Mr Wallace points back to Sunshine Coast Council.

“The heights as well as the specific locations of these towers are subject to Sunshine Coast Council’s planning processes. I know the telcos work hard to maximise the coverage generated by the towers they construct within the planning limits imposed by the council and the community’s feedback,”  Mr Wallace said.

The federal government is currently undertaking a national review into regional telecommunications.

Locals who are experiencing poor mobile reception can make a submission to the review by visiting www.rtirc.gov.au/consultation