Friday, 01 May 2020 09:44

Loss of power, not fire damage ‘overwhelmingly’ caused bushfire mobile outages Featured

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Mobile network outages during the 2019-20 bushfires were overwhelmingly due to loss of power rather than fire damage, according to a new report from the telecommunications regulator ACMA.

The report - prepared by the ACMA with the assistance of industry peak bodies Communications Alliance and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) - followed the convening of an industry roundtable by the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher following the bushfires of 2019-20.

The chief executives of Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and NBN Co, along with other senior industry representatives, all attended the round table.

“Telecommunications services are crucial in emergency situations. This summer’s bushfires led to significant telecommunications network outages,” Minister Fletcher said.

“At one point 150 mobile base stations across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia were off the air, and over 20,000 NBN services were disrupted.

“While the telco industry acted quickly to restore services, these outages had a significant impact. For example, when mobile coverage was lost in holiday towns on the NSW south coast, tourists could not contact friends or loved ones, and many were unable to buy food and fuel because EFTPOS terminals which use the mobile network were not working.”

Minister Fletcher said the ACMA report shows “that the average length of an outage incident was 3.5 days. Temporary facilities such as generators, cells on wheels and satellite cells on wheels were deployed to restore services in over a third of cases”.

“We know that more can, and will be done, to bolster network resilience and preparedness for natural disasters. One significant finding from the report is that direct fire damage accounted for only one per cent of outage incidents, with the vast majority of telecommunications outages caused by power outages,” he said.

“No telecommunications network is 100% impervious to damage or destruction, be it from bushfire or other natural disasters. While the combination of mobile, fixed line, satellite connectivity and temporary facilities means we are better placed to keep communities connected than 20 or 30 years ago, it is important that we maintain focus on improving the resilience and redundancy of networks to support continuity of service for Australians during emergencies,” Minister Fletcher concluded.


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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