Australia’s largest operator Telstra plans to roll out 135 4G small cell base stations to extend mobile coverage to 130 rural and remote communities across the country.

Telstra is investing AUD165 million ($118 million) to boost coverage in regional areas as part of the federal government’s Mobile Blackspot Programme.

Both Telstra and rival Vodafone announced deployment schedules earlier in the year for installing base stations in five states by the end of July.

Mike Wright, Telstra’s managing director for networks, said the small cell deployments are part of its commitment to expand its 4G coverage to 99 per cent of the population by June 2017.

“The introduction of 4G data services via a small cell in these locations will mean residents will be able to access social media and video on the go for the first time as well as increased opportunities for local businesses,” Wright said.

The 135 small cells sites, he said, are in addition to 429 communities that will benefit from expanded Telstra 3G and 4G coverage in the first phase of the government’s Mobile Blackspot Programme.

“We worked closely with the federal government to identify the communities that were eligible for this small cell technology, which will connect so many more regional communities. We will also continue to work with the government to identify further opportunities to deploy this innovative technology to more rural areas,” he said.