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The Mobile Connect program is an Australian Government program with two elements:
Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme
This scheme, through the provision of subsidies, improves the affordability of mobile satellite telephony for people living or working in areas that do not have coverage from terrestrial mobile phone networks.
The Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme provides support to people in areas beyond 3G or GSM terrestrial mobile coverage areas. Eligible consumers include individuals, small businesses, community groups, not-for-profit organisations, Indigenous Corporations, volunteer emergency services and educational institutions.
More information about the Scheme, including the guidelines and an application form is available at www.dbcde.gov.au/satphone.
An information kit can be requested by contacting the scheme administrator on freecall 1800 674 058 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terrestrial network extension
Funding of $8 million was made available to extend terrestrial mobile phone coverage to priority locations that do not currently have coverage, and for which there are no current plans to provide coverage. A list of 16 priority locations was developed, drawing on advice from the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee, and in consultation with mobile phone carriers.
On 3 July 2008, the Government released the guidelines for the Mobile Connect program, with applications due by 31 July. Despite extensive discussions with a number of mobile phone companies, and the availability of subsidies of up to 100 per cent of the capital costs, no applications were received.
This indicates that mobile phone carriers are at (or very close to) the limits of their commercial interest in further mobile phone coverage. This is particularly the case for locations with no accessible backhaul.
The Government will maintain a watching brief in case circumstances change.