A new Telstra mobile base station is now providing more coverage across Clyde Mountain and reducing the black spot problems in the region.
In a move that will improve the safety for both South Coast and Canberra communities, on Friday (28 May) the Buckenbowra station officially began delivering 3G and 4GX for the Kings Highway region between Batemans Bay and Braidwood.
The local community has waited a long time for the station’s completion, with many stories about motorists being stranded along the dangerous stretch of mountainous highway due to a mobile phone black spot.
In one such case from February, Region Media reported how a woman was ignored by passing motorists for 15 minutes when she was trying to flag them down to call for help over what would become a fatal crash.
Later that month, Batemans Bay business owner Michele Edwards said she had been campaigning for improved mobile reception across Clyde Mountain for the five years after her son crashed while driving his car on the highway and had to walk 2km and climb a tree to find reception to call for help.
Eurobodalla Shire Council Mayor Liz Innes said the new station would make a huge difference to the community.
“It will improve connectivity for our residents living in this area and for all those who travel the Kings Highway,” she said.
“Day-to-day communication for workers along the highway will be drastically improved and, importantly, our emergency services will be able to respond more quickly.
“This is great news from a resilience point of view given our experience in the fires, and I’m very grateful to Telstra and the Federal Government for making it happen.”
The Buckenbowra station was jointly funded by Telstra and the commonwealth government as part of the Mobile Black Spot Program.
But it has been a long time coming. In April 2018, the Federal Government provided $60 million for 125 ‘specific priority locations’ where base stations were needed to overcome black spots.
Clyde Mountain came in at number five on the priority list.
In February, a Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications spokesperson said the Clyde Mountain base station initially experienced delays due to Telstra being unable to obtain property and planning approvals at a suitable site, and subsequently being unable to gain safe access to the area following the impact of the Black Summer bushfires.
On Friday, Telstra’s NSW regional general manager Chris Taylor said it was challenging to build at the Buckenbowra site due to it being in the Mongo National Park – but the station was operational.
“The absence of a mains electricity supply to the site means we have to use alternative technologies,” he said.
“This site has 72 large batteries powered by 60 solar panels.
“They are supported by a permanent generator which kicks in to enable continuous coverage when the panels are unable to charge the batteries due to low levels of sun.”
Mr Taylor said mobile coverage could be impacted by a variety of factors, including terrain.
“Despite the significant hills and valleys across the mountain range, we have been able to deliver approximately 11 kilometres of new handheld Telstra coverage across the top of the mountain between Pooh Bear’s Corner and Cabbage Tree Creek – more if you have an external antenna or booster,” he said.
“Combined with existing mobile coverage from the Nelligen and Braidwood sides of the mountain, we expect travellers across the mountain will now notice better mobile coverage.
“The new site will also provide Triple Zero connectivity for customers of other networks in times of emergency, so it’s a great outcome for people driving on this section of the Kings Highway.”
Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council Mayor Tim Overall said the new tower was great news for everyone who travelled the Kings Highway and particularly for the local community and emergency services.
“Improved connectivity can make a world of difference in emergency situations and this was certainly an issue that was raised in our community after the 2019-20 bushfire season,” he said.