THE Narooma News can reveal Telstra almost built a new mobile phone tower at Brushgrove Lane to service the Tilba area but plans were abandoned.
Central Tilba business owners were motivated to speak out after Telstra last week announced its program to add data-only 4G coverage to existing mobile phone towers at Narooma, Bermagui and elsewhere on the Far South Coast was proceeding well.
George and Barbara Davies of The Tilba Woodturning Gallery are among those of the view that telecommunications companies should instead focus on filling in black spots such as Central Tilba.
“We get numerous comments every day from tourists about the mobile coverage and many are amazed there is no service at all,” George said.
The good news was Telstra got to the stage of selecting a site for a new mobile tower off Brushgrove Lane, even doing balloon testing of signals, but Davies said plans were abandoned after a neighbouring landowner, who has since moved away, objected to the tower plan.
George pointed out Central Tilba was in November was ranked 73rd in Australian Traveller Magazine’s list of 100 “best kept secrets” and yet it was the other towns getting the infrastructure.
Interestingly, Tathra is ranked 41 and its mobile coverage has also been reported as lacking, so perhaps not having phone service is a prerequisite to being a secret spot worth visiting.
But for the Davies, it is a constant battle and only last week a simple power transformer malfunction on their new Telstra digital business modem meant they lost their EFTPOS machine and without mobile back up they reckon they lost thousands at the peak tourist time.
Telstra regional manager Chris Taylor confirmed that Telstra five years ago investigated the possibility of increasing coverage in the Tilba area.
“However we were unable to find a suitable location that would meet criteria which include the local community planning controls and the coverage requirements,” Taylor said.
“The (Brushgrove Lane) site was considered but was determined not to be economically feasible for Telstra to develop. Telstra currently has no plans to pursue other sites in the area.”
According to Canberra Times report on December 30, Telstra has spent nearly $2 million to add 4G coverage to existing 3G towers on the South Coast, matching broadband internet and mobile data services available in metropolitan Sydney and Melbourne.
The latest smart phones use 4G to send and receive data for apps, texts and emails but it does not carry voice signals.
Not only does 4G potentially deliver download speeds of between two and 50 megabits per second to customers, it also takes pressure off the 3G network that apparently crashed from overuse in locations such as Batemans Bay during Christmas 2012, although the News is not aware of any crashing in Narooma or Bermagui.
The News reported last week that both Narooma and Bermagui were about to get 4G, but it turns out while we may see 4G on equipped phones, the service has not officially gone live in Narooma or Bermagui.
Basic 3G on the Kings Highway and in other areas remained patchy at best, prompting communities including Tathra, Eden and Wyndham to call for relief from poor mobile and data coverage by carriers including Optus and Telstra, the Times reported.
Taylor said Telstra deployed 4G in surrounding areas to boost capacity and this helped improve service during the influx of holiday makers during the peak holiday season.
“Customers can also maximise the coverage already available through a number of options including using an external roof mounted antenna or a ‘blue tick’ phone designed to work better in rural areas,” he said.
Community members may also explore the possibility of Federal Government assistance in expanding mobile coverage in the area through the “Mobile Black Spots Project” – find out more at www.communications.gov.au/mobile_services/mobile_coverage_programme