Telstra uses VR technology to train field technicians

Media Release, 15 December 2020

For the first time virtual reality technology is now being used by Telstra to undertake training for its network field technicians, helping provide a realistic and immersive experience for participants and reducing time away from resolving customer issues.

Traditionally, training for Telstra’s field technicians has been done face-to-face in a classroom setting over several days and requiring travel to metropolitan areas. Covid-19 has made this even more challenging this year, so an innovative e-learning approach has been developed with Australian telecommunications training provider JB Hunter.

“Safety is very important to Telstra and each year our technicians are required to undertake training specific to the telecommunications industry,” said David Aistrope, Telstra’s Manager for Field Services in SA & NT.

Current VR training units are on power pole rescue, low voltage electrical panel rescue, CPR and first aid. Additional VR modules may be added in the future as part of Telstra’s safety training program.

“Technology in the telecommunications industry is constantly changing and upgrading and our training methods need to be innovative to help us deliver emerging technologies such as 5G to our customers,” Mr Aistrope said.

By utilising virtual reality in training, Telstra will be able to accelerate the upskilling of field technicians to remain current and get involved in new technologies and solutions.

Telstra now has 250 virtual reality kits in operation across Australia at the company’s metropolitan and regional network sites. Each kit is valued at approximately $4,000, making this a million-dollar investment by Telstra to continue to keep employees and the community safe and connected.

When undertaking the training, each participant is given a VR headset and two hand controllers and is allocated a 3m x 3m space that is geo-fenced to allow them to virtually perform the tasks required.

Using cloud-based technology, the VR session can be run anywhere with a mobile or fixed line internet connection. The headset uses Wi-Fi technology to receive the virtual images and allows for other participants to watch what is occurring via an external screen. Employee performance is then reported back to a web dashboard for analysis and insight.

“Using virtual reality allows for training to be consistent, self-paced, fully immersive and more engaging than traditional classroom style training,” Mr Aistrope said.

“It offers a setting that makes the participant feel like they are exposed to hazardous real-world settings and the incident is happening right in front of them, yet they are actually in the safety of a Telstra building.

“For our customers, having our crews doing the training on-demand and on-site reduces the need for staff travel and helps keep our crews on the road resolving customer issues and network faults.”

“We see virtual reality as being a game changer for the training industry,” said Shane Darwin, CEO of JB Hunter.

“We have been helping Telstra deliver safety training to its field employees for over ten years. We took Telstra’s requirements and worked with local designers over the past 18 months to develop these interactive modules, allowing Telstra’s technicians to fully experience a high-risk and stressful situation without being exposed to any danger.

“We believe this is the first time that this combination of technology has been used in the telecommunications industry in Australia and has applications for other utilities and companies with geographically scattered workforces that require regular training.”

Successful completion of the training provides the participant with nationally recognised accreditation for 12 months, in line with industry requirements.

Telstra recognises the opportunities that technology and connectivity can provide and believes this is a great example of the practical use of virtual reality in delivering training and education.

Rollout of this VR safety training has now begun across the country and over 2,000 field technicians will participate in coming months.

Telstra Media contact:

Chris Marks - Telstra Public Affairs (SA and NT)

Media reference number: 118/2020