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Our ongoing investment in regional and rural Australia

Regional

Posted on March 13, 2019

1 min read

Over the last five years up to June 2019, our total mobile network investment is around $8 billion of which almost $3 billion is invested in regional areas. We have also built more than 500 new mobile base stations under the Federal Government Mobile Black Spot Program.

The benefits of mobile connectivity are demonstrated through the many positive experiences our customers are having across the country. Whether it is the iconic Pub With No Beer in NSW, Eggs and Bacon Bay in Tasmania, Culla in far Western Victoria, or at Eganstown in the Victorian gold fields region.

In all of these examples, mobile coverage means people and businesses in regional and remote communities can do things many in the city take for granted. Whether it is streaming sports, movies and television, working remotely, or just staying in touch.

We are also embracing new and innovative applications of technology to extend coverage and connectivity.

The cutting edge technology offered by the 4GX-lite Mobile Satellite Small Cell Solution is an example of this. The Telstra Go Mobile and Stationary Repeater, an antenna that extends mobile coverage and allows customers to access coverage in places where it might be unavailable, is another example.

What is important – and what in many ways sets Telstra apart from our competitors – is that we will ensure regional and rural Australia is part of our future.

Fixing faults and improving repair times

In addition to mobile coverage, Telstra continues to provide a standard fixed landline service under our Universal Service Obligation (USO). This service is provided over a number of technologies in regional Australia some of which are older or can be more susceptible to damage and faults.

Under the Customer Service Guarantee, we are obliged to repair telephone service faults within a certain time-frame, depending on where a customer lives.  While we meet the standards required by us under the USO there are still some customers who have to wait longer than they should for a service to be restored.

I understand the frustration this can cause, particularly where there are no other options. We are therefore expanding our regional maintenance plan further to address the primary sources of regional faults – so we can provide a better, more reliable service for our customers.

This includes the proactive repair of cable joints, which can be a common cause of faults in the regional network, migrating customers from less reliable networks using outdated technology to more reliable networks and the pro-active replacement of batteries in exchanges.

We are also improving stock levels of equipment so our field teams can respond faster when something goes wrong.

Digital literacy and Indigenous inclusion

In addition to providing more mobile coverage than any other provider and further expanding our maintenance plans for fixed line services, another area of focus for us in relation to regional telecommunications is digital inclusion.

The Telstra Australian Digital Inclusion Index helps to focus policy-makers, businesses and community organisations on the issue of digital inclusion in Australia, and create and assess programs over time.

One finding of The Australian Digital Inclusion Index is that Indigenous Australians living in urban and regional areas have low levels of digital inclusion, scoring below the national average on Access, Affordability and Digital Ability. Remoteness further diminishes digital inclusion for Indigenous Australians particularly where access and affordability is concerned.

Over the past several years we have done several things to improve Indigenous Digital Literacy.

The Indigenous Digital Excellence (IDX) Flint program provides hands-on workshops in digital technologies in 20 regional and remote communities. Over the next three years, we will extend the program to an additional 10 communities. This learning includes how to use 3D printers, fly a drone and make their own robots.

Telstra also partners with First Nations Media to provide training and support for Indigenous Australians living in remote communities to develop digital skills and capability and learn how to stay safe online.

Additionally, our fourth Reconciliation Action Plan puts Telstra among just 21 other leading organisations with an ‘Elevate RAP’ where we pledge to develop respectful relationships and create meaningful opportunities with Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island peoples.

Our 2018-2021 RAP is a commitment to bridge the Indigenous digital divide. We have invested in the $28 million Remote Telecommunications Co-Investment Program with the Northern Territory Government, targeting remote locations, including communities, transport corridors and tourist destinations which builds upon previous co-investments we have made.

 

Regional Telecommunications Independent Review

Last year Australian’s provided their views, thoughts and comments to the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee (RTIRC) on telecommunications services in regional, rural and remote parts of Australia.

The committee’s subsequent report, released late last year, covered broad areas about communications in regional and rural Australia, including maximising the economic benefits of connectivity, improving consumer protections, and increasing social benefits through digital inclusion and digital literacy.

Telstra has been a part, and a partner of, regional Australia, throughout our one hundred plus year history. We continue to be involved through our network maintenance, expansion and sustainability programs. I am proud of the work we do in providing connectivity and services to many areas of Australia where others do not.

The RTIRC made a number of recommendations on improving fault repair times, continuing expansion and availability of mobile services and improving digital literacy, particularly amongst indigenous communities – all things which Telstra has been leading on and investing in to improve outcomes for customers.

Telecommunications and connectivity today is often regarded as something of a fundamental human right, and nowhere is connectivity more important than in regional and remote areas.

It is more than just being able to stay in touch or call for help when you need it – it connects you to the world; to information and services; entertainment and experiences; and, if you are business or a primary producer, new markets and future markets and opportunities.

What is important – and what in many ways sets Telstra apart from our competitors – is that we will ensure regional and rural Australia is part of this future.

We look forward to continuing to work closely with Government to continually improve our services and meeting the challenges highlighted in the RTIRC report.

Telstra’s program of work will specifically include:

  • Repairing and replacement of around 1,000 cable joints (and where necessary the cable itself) on the worst performing cables.
  • Migration of around 350 customers off the ageing HCRC network onto NextG Wireless Local Loop (NGWL) telephone services.
  • Around 200 battery replacements in exchange and roadside cabinets where mains power failures are more frequent.
  • Increase stocks of pair gain units (approximately 800) – to reduce repair time delays caused by having to wait for parts.