Australia’s federal government, with support from state and local governments, as well as operators Telstra and Vodafone, will invest a total of AUD385 million ($297 million) to build 499 base stations in remote locations over the next three years.

Public money will fund about half the project, with the two operators contributing the remainder (AUD185 million, or $143 million).

As part of the government’s mobile black-spot programme, which identified 3,000 black-spots nationwide, the initial phase of the project will provide new and upgraded coverage to 68,600 square kilometres in regional Australia. In addition, about 150,000 square kilometres will receive new external antenna coverage and over 5,700 kilometres of major transport routes will receive new coverage, according to the Communications Department’s website.

Five state governments – Victorian, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australian – have agreed to partner with the Australian government to co-fund base stations in their jurisdictions. The federal government is committing AUD100 million. A number of local governments, businesses and community organisations have also agreed to co-funding arrangements with the successful applicants.

Vodafone has received support to build 70 base stations in regional Australia and will invest AUS20 million, while Telstra will spend AUD165 million to build 429 3G/4G towers.

Optus reportedly participated in the bidding process, but none of its bids were successful.

The federal government will provide an additional AUD60 million in the second round of the programme, with two-year funding available starting 1 July 2016.