From the Cocos Islands to Tasmania, my team is responsible for the construction and maintenance of Telstra’s fixed and wireless networks.
We’re the Telstra people you see working on roadside cabinets, laying optic fibre cables or putting up the base stations and antennas that are necessary to keep Telstra’s customers connected.
Recently my team built a new base station in Yamba, NSW. The new site was needed to not only improve mobile coverage in Yamba generally but also for the additional capacity that’s required during the peak summer holiday season.
What made the construction of this base station different from many of the 1500 others we constructed as part of our 4G coverage expansion program was that rather than upgrade an existing tower, we had to build a new one because the existing infrastructure did not have the capacity to accommodate the new 4G technology.
Generally we try to use our existing infrastructure where we can. This may be an existing pole or tower that we own or one we share with another carrier. Sometimes we also use other man-made structures in the area. Consequently, it’s not often we need to construct a completely new base station.
This one at Yamba presented us with some interesting construction challenges. The sandy soil meant the foundation required us to use a collared steel sleeve which is driven down into the soil. This all added to the construction timeframe because the steel casing had to be manufactured and then a contractor who specialises in this type of foundation work needed to be brought in.
As part of our commitment to ease network congestion in the area, the base station needed to be built and commissioned before the start of the 2013/14 summer holiday season.
All up the physical build took approximately 21 days. The time to bore and concrete the foundation took a little over two days, and the actual construction of the tower was done in one long day. The majority of the time spent was on the ground preparing the cabling, building and dressing the head frame, earthing the tower, as well as the actual installation of the equipment including transferring it to the top of the tower – which is slow and time consuming.
Given that this aspect of our work is becoming less necessary because of our use of existing infrastructure, one of my team decided it was a good opportunity to document the type of work we perform at such sites. I think it makes interesting viewing so I’d like to share this video with you.
This new site has improved Telstra’s mobile coverage in Yamba Shopping Fair, Crystal Lake and Whyna Island areas. During the peak holiday season, our base stations in the Yamba area carried up to three times the traffic they would normally carry.
Together with the rollout of 4G technology, our customers were able to experienced data speeds of at least four times faster than the previous holiday season.