More data, better payphones, less stress: how we’re supporting you this disaster season

We know better than anyone that connectivity during disasters is critical. We have been investing in our networks to make them more resilient, as well as coming up with new ways to get people connected if damage to our network occurs.
Loretta Willaton · 01 November 2023 · 5 minute read

We’ve always been there supporting Australians during fires, floods, cyclones and other extreme events. This year, we’re stepping up our planning and response to help our customers keep in touch with loved ones during a natural disaster.

Testing emergency roaming

In an Australian first, we will test the ability for people to use any available mobile network during natural disasters, if their own provider’s network has been impacted or doesn't have coverage. 

With the number and severity of natural disasters increasing, industry and government have been discussing the technical and commercial hurdles that will need to be overcome before emergency roaming can be introduced.

To help guide that conversation we’ll shortly be conducting a simulation within our own network as a first step to demonstrate it’s possible.

We will continue to engage with other network providers and Government on emergency roaming, including how it will operate and be funded, as well as the timing for roll-out.  

Giving you more data automatically in a crisis

When disaster strikes there can be a lot to think about and a long list of people to contact. Between letting family members know you’re ok, to calling neighbours in the area and even the insurers, we want to take one less worry away.

This year, customers on our monthly mobile plans will automatically receive 100GB of extra data on their service if you’re in an affected area. As long as your mobile service is registered to an area where disaster assistance is available, you’ll receive a text message informing you that you’ll be set up with the extra data for use in Australia within 30 days.

Previously, you’d have to phone us to get the extra data activated on your account. Now, we’re adding it to your account automatically, so you have the data you need to get things done during a difficult time.


Upgrading 1000 payphones in disaster-prone areas

A few years ago, we made our payphones free for anyone who needed them. Then we went a step further and switched on free Wi-Fi at some payphones. When bushfires rolled across the coasts of Australia, we knew how important they were, as lines formed in affected towns of people wanting to let their families and friends know they were ok.

Now, we’re working to upgrade 1000 payphones in disaster-prone areas around Australia to help keep you connected during a disaster. This includes upgrades for 70 remote Indigenous communities.

The upgrades provide technology like USB charging for your devices and free Wi-Fi connectivity (to those that don’t already have it) so you can get online, as well as backup power.

We have already started these upgrades, and we’re working toward having all 1000 payphones upgraded by mid-2025.


You can find your nearest payphone using our Payphone Finder.

Our Telstra Response Team

When disaster strikes, our people are often the first on the ground, working around the clock to restore the network, reconnect our customers and assist communities impacted as quickly as possible.  

Local customer service teams also set up in the area to provide customers with recharge services, loan devices and to provide emergency connectivity services. 

That’s on top of the generators, temporary infrastructure, and disaster recovery experts we deploy to help keep you connected to Australia’s largest mobile network.

Ahead of what’s expected to be a challenging disaster season, we will mobilise more than 3,000 of our people to respond on the ground across the country or via our dedicated disaster assistance line 1800 888 888, as and when we’re needed with a tailored approach dependent on the weather event.

It’s called the Telstra Response Team.

The Telstra Response Team is a dedicated crew of technicians across Australia who will be deployed during a disaster to repair critical equipment (such as telephone exchanges, mobile towers, cables, etc) and restore connectivity to communities affected by disasters.

The team is also made up of our specialised disaster assistance agents who can help you with payment support, advice on how to manage your services if you’ve had to leave home, or resolving faults caused by the disaster.

Need to speak to someone on our Telstra Disaster Team? Tap here to get in touch.

New tech to keep you connected

While our network and other infrastructure like electricity can be affected during a natural disaster, we continually work to find better, faster ways to reconnect affected communities.

This year we have been trialling portable satellite connectivity via the low-Earth orbit satellite product provided via Starlink.

What’s great about these kits is that they are easy to assemble, helping to provide basic connectivity even if both fixed line and mobile connections are down in a disaster area.

This season, they may be deployed to priority locations such as evacuation centres or town centres, particularly around local supermarkets and essential services so they can still operate and accept payments even if their local infrastructure is down.  

The Response Team will also have access to 110 new trailer-mounted, high-powered generators thanks to co-invsetment with the Commonwealth Government. These new generators can be rolled out anywhere across the country, including in key regional areas, and they supplement the stock we already have to keep power flowing to towers and exchanges in the event of a disaster.

How to prepare for a disaster

We’ve got all the right information on Telstra Exchange to help you prepare for disaster season.

Whether you’re facing floods, fires or cyclones, we know that being prepared is key.

Head over to our disaster preparedness page to find out how you can get ready.

By Loretta Willaton

Regional Australia Executive and Regional Customer Advocate

Loretta is the Regional Australia Executive at Telstra. Before this role she worked as an Area General Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the telecommunications industry.