Telstra providing additional coverage to fire fighters

Media Release, 06 January 2016

Mobile telecommunications capacity in the Birregurra area has been temporarily boosted to better assist fire fighters still working to contain the Otway Ranges fires.

Telstra has deployed a mobile ‘Cell on Wheels’ (CoW) to support up to 400 fire fighters and emergency services organisations personnel located at the Birregurra base camp, near the centre of town. In the coming days this is expected to be home to up to 400 personnel.

A CoW is a temporary mobile base station fitted with Telstra’s Next G™ network technology that can be deployed to augment mobile capacity where there are a lot of people in one area or replace a base station that has been damaged or destroyed.

Prior to the installation of the CoW congestion to the mobile network was being experienced in the Birregurra area, particularly during shift changes in the late afternoon when crews returned to base camp.

At the request of the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning Telstra has temporarily installed the CoW next to the Birregurra exchange to help support the fire fighting and recovery effort.

A CoW is a piece of temporary infrastructure that can be tethered to the Telstra Mobile network to allow more mobile users to be online or on the phone at the same time.

In addition, Telstra has installed a number of WiFi hot spots across the Birregurra base camp to assist international fire fighters from New Zealand connect with families and loved ones back at home.

Telstra Geelong and Surf Coast Area General Manager, Duane Dalton, said the temporary infrastructure would alleviate pressure on the existing mobile network.

“Although Birregurra has good existing coverage, due to the large number of people in the same area, pressure was being placed on our network that lead to some congestion,” Mr Dalton said.

“We are proud that with our fleet of temporary mobile infrastructure CoWs we are able to assist emergency services organisations and communities in times of need.”

An assistance package for affected customers in the Wye River, Separation Creek and Wongarra areas remains in place.

Customers are encouraged to call Telstra on 132 203 (press option one, and enter their full home phone number including area code) to report a fault and register for an assistance package if they have had to evacuate their home or have lost their home.

Mr Dalton said the CoW would remain in place for as long as the emergency services organisations required it.

“The Cell on Wheels is temporary, and can’t remain behind after the emergency has passed,” he said.

“When we are advised it is no longer required it will be redeployed to another area of the state or country.”

Picture opportunity: Interested media can take a photo of the CoW parked next to the Birregurra Exchange located at 52 Jenner Street, Birregurra.