Following a recent report on the impact of Australia’s horrendous bushfire season on telecommunications, the Federal Government has announced a telecoms resiliency package.
As we mentioned last week, Australia’s recent bushfire crisis saw 1,390 telecommunications facilities either directly impacted by fire damage or indirectly impacted by power outages or other factors. 51 per cent of facilities impacted experienced outages of four hours or more.
Announced on Tuesday, the $37.1 million package to help improve communications resiliency consists of four elements.
$7 million will bring upgraded connectivity at fire service depots and evacuation centres across the country to support the firies’ essential work and provide emergency connectivity for communities. While many fire depots in rural areas already have fixed-line connections, satellite upgrades will provide a back-up link if these are compromised.
The Government will also spend $18 million on what’s been called the “Mobile Network Hardening Program”. This will involve two stages – the first upgrading battery backup power at base stations that were funded under Rounds 1 and 2 of the Mobile Black Spot Program. Where feasible, backup capabilities will be increased from between 3 to 8 hours up to at least 12 hours. The second stage will be a grants program for hardening measures at high priority locations; such as boosting backup power and providing transmission backhaul redundancy.
$10 million will go to buying portable communications facilities such as cells on wheels (COWs), mobile exchanges on wheels (MEOWs) and NBN Road Muster trucks (no clever acronym for that one). The idea of a portable exchange on wheels emerged from the ashes of Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfire disaster in February 2009; with Telstra’s first MEOW quite literally rolled out in late July that year.
Finally, $2.1 million will be spent on a public communication program to be delivered over the next 2 bushfire seasons that will offer practical information and advice for communities and businesses on staying connected during emergencies.
Announcing the package, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher said:
“We know how important it is to keep Australians connected, especially during emergencies. These measures are an important step in further strengthening our telco networks so they are as resilient as possible during future emergency situations.”
The new telecommunications resiliency measures are part of the Morrison Governments $650 million bushfire recovery funding package. More information on the initiative can be found here.