Australia operator Telstra committed to investing AUD150 million (US$115.9 million) over the next 12 months to improve its networks in rural areas and opened a new regional funding programme to run over four years.

The operator said the new investment will be used to fund capacity upgrades, bring LTE access to 3G-only sites, build new 4G sites, and develop technology for long-range sites with small cells and satellite backhaul.

In a statement, CEO Andrew Penn said the company also will lead an AUD200 million co-investment fund aimed at enhancing and extending mobile coverage in rural and regional areas.

“We plan to stimulate infrastructure co-investment with governments, local councils and businesses in areas that would otherwise be difficult to justify on economic grounds,” he explained.

As part of the government’s Regional Connectivity Programme announced last week, Telstra will work on 30 new projects to help improve connectivity around regional communities. The jointly funded programmes will involve the building of new towers and improving high-speed broadband services.

Telstra will invest about AUD16 million, together with AUD26 million from the federal government, and more than AUD13 million from state and local governments.