Telstra boosts mobile site power resiliency ahead of disaster season

Media Release, 04 November 2021

Telstra has boosted battery back-up power at 341 mobile tower sites in regional Australia, extending power reserves from three hours up to 12 hours for some of the country’s most remote towns. The upgrades were made with assistance from the Australian Government’s Strengthening Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters (STAND) program.

Telstra’s Group Executive for Networks & IT Nikos Katinakis said the project, which included the addition of smart charging and monitoring capability, was delivered ahead of schedule.

“The Australian Government committed $11.4 million to the project, with the expectation it would be completed by the end of 2021,” Mr Katinakis said.

“We delivered the project in eight months, so we were well-prepared ahead of disaster season.

“Our teams did a phenomenal job managing the logistical challenges of COVID restrictions and border closures – transporting more than 8,600 new battery cells weighing a total of 500,000 kilograms across the country was no small feat.”

Minister for Emergency Management and Regional Communications, Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, said these upgrades were part of the Liberal and Nationals Government’s plan to improve telecommunications resilience across regional and remote Australia.

“Our priority is to provide Australians with better access to reliable communication services, which is why we committed $11.4 million to boost the battery back-up power of these 341 mobile tower sites – all of which were funded under Rounds 1 and 2 of the Liberal and National Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program,” Minister McKenzie said.

“Access to telecommunications is vital before, during and after an emergency, so having longer lasting backup power sources will be critical to ensuring the community and emergency services remain connected during a natural disaster.”

Mr Katinakis said the upgrades were part of a raft of measures Telstra takes to prepare for disaster season in Australia.

“In our long history we’ve had lots of first-hand experience dealing with natural disasters,” he said.

“Our teams work year-round to get ready, and we have State and hazard-specific plans in place to prepare for, respond to and recover from these events.

“Throughout the year we also use network data, customer feedback, and the experience of our field technicians to proactively strengthen our fixed and mobile networks. Our monitoring systems now capture around 100 terabytes of network data each day which helps us identify potential issues before they affect our regional customers.” 

While these battery upgrades will provide vital power resiliency, Mr Katinakis said it was not technically possible to provide power back-up for extended power outages, and mains power suppliers also played a critical role in ensuring local communities stay connected.

“Mains power outages cause the vast majority of interruptions to our services during emergencies. In fact, a report by the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that almost 90 per cent of network outages over the Black Summer bushfires were caused by a lack of mains power,” he said.

“When the mains supply of electricity fails, our battery back-up or generators kick-in. But batteries and generators are not a silver bullet, especially when trying to protect this equipment during fire and floods and in the face of lengthy mains power outages of the kind we often experience during disasters.

“We have more than 10,900 mobile network sites that require power and the power requirements at these sites are enormous. A typical regional mobile site uses the same amount of power as over 60 family sized refrigerators operating 24/7. This places logistical limits on the types of back-up power and how long it can reasonably maintain operation during a failure of mains power.”

Mr Katinakis said Telstra would continue to do what it can to boost power resiliency at these sites.

“Over and above the STAND program, we have replaced batteries at over 2,100 network sites nationally since July 2019, and this will continue into the next financial year,” he said.

“Staying in touch is something most of us take for granted during the best of times, and we understand its importance during the worst of times.”

 

More information:

·       How individuals can prepare for disaster season

·       How small businesses can prepare for natural disasters

 

ENDS

 

Telstra media contact: 

Danita Goodwin – Media Relations Manager

media@team.telstra.com

Media reference number: 142/2021