Telstra Strengthens Disaster Support In The Hawkesbury

Written by: The Hawkesbury Phoenix


Telstra made calls from pay phones free to help people reconnect wiith loved ones during or after natural disasters.

A suite of Telstra upgrades, coupled with new equipment and other initiatives locally, means Hawkesubry communities hit by natural disasters will be able to reconnect with loved ones and essential services faster.

Ahead of an historically challenging season, a number of town in the area are being bolstered with upgraded payphones and power backup technology, in addition to mobile coverage and performance improvements across the state, to help communities affected by disaster reconnect and recover as quickly as possible.

Telstra Regional General Manager, Michael Marom said Telstra was rolling out the upgrades and trailing technology across the Hawkesbury region in addition to a suite of national initiatives to help disaster-hit communities weather the storm.

“Hawkesbury communities sadly know first-hand what Mother Nature can do and we know how important it is to be able to stay in touch with loved ones during a natural disaster,” Mr Marom said.

“We have a long history of responding to extreme weather events. “Our people are often the first on the groun to assess and restore our network when it’s safe to do so.”

“While our network and other infrastructure like electricity can be affected during a natural disaster, we continually work to find better, faster ways to reconnect affected communities.

“We’re rolling out these new measures right now while also working towards a more resilient future.”

More than 300 payphones in NSW are among 1000 across the nation being upgraded over the next two years with free Telstra Wi-Fi, USB charging ports and back-up power to help keep communities connected during a natural disaster.

Agnes Banks and Bilpin are among those locations already upgraded.

Mr Marom said Telstra made it free to call standing national and mobile numbers from their payphones a few years ago, along with Wi-Fi across thousands of them.

“We see how important they are whenever disaster strikes, with lines forming in affected towns by people wanting to let their families and friends know they’re okay,” Mr Marom said.

“We’re making our payphones smarter and more resilient so they’re even more useful in a natural disaster going forward.

“We’ve already started these upgrades, and we’re working toward having all 1000 payphone upgrades complete by mid-2025.”

Fifteen Telstra network sites in the region are among 250 nationally to be upgraded with Automatic Transfer Units (ATUs) - new technology that allows local authorities to hook up portable generators to exchanges and mobile base stations during a power outage - by the end of 2024.

Locations include Wisemans Ferry, Colo, Bilpin and Freemans Reach.

Mr Marom said extended power outages were often a major cause of the network going down.

“The quicker our network sites are powered up, the quicker we can restore services,” Mr Marom said.

“This new technology means affected communities can be reconnected faster by, for example, the local council or SES if access to their town is cut off and preventing us from reaching them.”

The upgrades and additional capabilities are in addition to Telstra’s continual expansion and improvement of its mobile network in New South Wales and across the nation.

Over the 7 years to the end of the financial years 2023, Telstra invested $11B in its mobile network nationally with $4B of this invested in its regional mobile network.

The upgrades across the Hawkesbury build on Telstra’s recently announced disaster initiatives to support communities living through a natural disaster, including:

  • Proactively granting 100GB of extra data for customers on mobile plans in disaster affected areas, so they don’t have to apply during a difficult time;
  • Testing emergency roaming - In an Australian first, Telstra will test the ability for people to use any available mobile network during natural disaster, if their own provider’s network has been impacted or doesn’t have coverage;
  • Deploying more than 3000 of our people who make up the Telstra Response Team - a crew of dedicated technicians and specialised disaster assistance agents who help reconnect customers and communities quicker. Customers can call the Telstra Response Team on 1800 888 888; and
  • Trialling portable satellite technology that can be quickly deployed to evacuation centres or town centres to provide basic connectivity if both fixed and mobile connections are down in a disaster area.

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