Network |

Connecting our 700th mobile black spot to the future

By Nikos Katinakis November 4, 2020

It’s amazing what we can achieve when we come together. Four years ago, hundreds of thousands square kilometres around our nation were off the grid when it came to mobile phone coverage. Now thanks to our hard work with the Federal Government on the Mobile Black Spot Program, we’ve lit up 700 4G sites to bring the promise of the digital future to more Australians than ever.

Having mobile phone coverage means more for a town than just letting them binge-watching Netflix, too. Arrowsmith East locals are now able to make calls to each other around town, meaning they don’t have to take the trek up steep hills to get service. That means they can make quicker decisions about how, where and when to move livestock, and get updated weather reports faster than ever.

It affects people like Craig and Ray Morgan: a father-and-son farming team who have worked the land at Arrowsmith East since 1967. The Morgans live on the land where the new mobile site is located, and they’ve told us it makes a wonderful difference to their quality of life.

Ray, 76, said that “having a mobile phone is an important part of a bloke’s business”, and now we can help him get down to business faster and smarter.

For these communities, mobile coverage has meant the ability to do the simple things, EFTPOS transactions, call and message with family and fast mobile broadband to stream and download content. It connects businesses to the digital economy in ways that can supercharge businesses at a time when they need it most.

And it brings people together. More than 194,000 square kilometres of new or improved coverage has been switched on nationally as a result of the investments in the Mobile Black Spot Program.

Additionally, 5600 kilometres of new or improved highway coverage along some of Australia’s busiest, longest and most isolated trucking and tourism routes is now operational thanks to the Mobile Black Spot Program.

That coverage can also help to save lives. 45,000 emergency 000 calls have been made in the time we’ve been working on the Mobile Black Spot Program. There had been a time in the past when those calls could not have been placed, and we’re dedicated to making sure more Australians can get the help they need when they need it most. The new tower at Arrowsmith East also covers a 100km hazardous route between Mingenew and Eneabba, meaning motorists and travellers can get help if they need it.

When the Mobile Black Spot Program started, hundreds of towns were crying out for mobile coverage. Thanks to the hard work of our people, and just shy of a $300 million investment, we have completed five rounds of the Mobile Black Spot Program and built more than 700 towers.

Our 700th is now live in Arrowsmith East in Western Australia. It too is now enjoying the benefits of connectivity that a lot of us take for granted in this country.

Arrowsmith East joins rural towns around the country in joining the digital economy. From Eggs and Bacon Bay to The Pub With No Beer, the Mobile Black Spot Program is lighting up towns by the hundreds. Even in the midst of COVID-19, the Mobile Black Spot Program served to bring life to a region like Walhalla which has stayed connected to its fans by live streaming on Facebook via their new 4G tower.

We’re proud to have the network that is connecting more Australians in more places than ever. We’ll continue to deliver coverage to hard-to-reach areas, so more Aussies can enjoy what the future of connectivity has to offer.

Network |

Walhalla rising: revisiting a changed and connected town

By Luke Hopewell September 17, 2020

Through our long-running participation with the Mobile Black Spot Program, we’ve brought coverage to remote communities all over the country. As we roll out our 700th Mobile Black Spot, we revisit Walhalla, the site of our 600th, to see how life has changed. From a mobile phone blackspot in the heart of the mountains, Walhalla now resembles the remote village of the future.

Welcome to Walhalla

Nestled in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, Walhalla was once home to 4000 people during the height of the Victorian gold rush era – not long after the town itself was founded in 1862. The Walhalla Goldfields Railway has survived since then, and memories of the past remain with ghost tours a popular attraction for tourists.

We brought our 600th site in the Mobile Black Spot program to the town in mid-2019. With just 20 permanent residents living in Walhalla today, our commitment shows that we’re not about to leave any Aussie out of the thriving digital economy.

One of those residents is Councillor Michael Leaney: local politician and owner of the Star Hotel in Walhalla. He tells us that 4G in Walhalla has changed the way the town does business.

 

Growing digital businesses

At a fundamental level, 4G mobile coverage in the town enables things that you and I take for granted. Things like being able to text someone when you’ve left something off their shopping list. After all, the closest supermarket is over 45-minutes away by car.

It also allows residents to take care of issues themselves, as everyone now has connectivity in their pocket, Michael explains.

The residents can also now call 000 in an emergency, and stay informed during a potential disaster, such as the recent bushfire season.

Michael tells me that this year, the fires were 70km from Walhalla. Not as close as they have been before, he adds, but every year before now they’d had to listen to the radio for bulletins and guess how close the flames were. Now, the residents are better informed, and as a result, better prepared.

“World War III could have broken out before we had 4G, and we wouldn’t have known! But now we can find out,” Michael jokes.

Beyond basic safety, though, Walhalla can now grow its local businesses in ways it couldn’t before thanks to fast, affordable and reliable 4G connectivity.

Visitors to Michael’s business – Walhalla’s Star Hotel – would always complain on TripAdvisor about the quality of the Wi-Fi, but until 4G came along, Michael couldn’t do anything to fix it.

“People online in reviews would say it was a lovely place, but with crap Wi-Fi. We’d put a sign in our foyer saying we didn’t have capacity to make it better. The instant 4G was installed, however, we were able to upgrade our Wi-Fi and enjoy upgraded phone services and instantly it was fixed. One minute they were complaining, the next it just stops!”

Michael has leant into the technology at Walhalla’s Star Hotel, upgrading the reservation system, payment terminals and even the security camera system which can record footage into the cloud and alert him when objects are detected outside at night. That’s a feature he’s had to turn off, however, as the wallabies kept tripping the alarms.

Connectivity that other businesses would take for granted – like the ability to SMS your customers – has made Michael’s life easier.

Michael has noticed changes in other businesses, too. The old gold mine that now offers tours to visitors now takes bookings online, rather than just in-person. It also has mobile connectivity so it can interact with its customers in more convenient ways, too.

The scenic railways also has T-Go Boosters along the route to stay connected for the all-important selfie along the way.

Others in town are also getting in on the act as they see the possibilities thanks to better and more affordable connectivity.

Viva virtual tourism

Of course, COVID-19 has changed the way that Walhalla – a small town that thrives on visitors –interacts with the outside world. The global pandemic has had a profound impact on the Walhalla tourism scene. Situated in regional Victoria, the town has been subjected to enhanced restrictions in the wake of the state’s protracted second wave.

But the residents of Walhalla – those who would normally be tipping their hats to tourists and welcoming visitors to their sleepy mountain paradise – are finding ways to stay connected with their fans.

With a dog in tow, Michael will embark on a live streamed walk around Walhalla for the town’s fans on Facebook. All 20,000+ of them, tuning in each broadcast to get a slice of socially-distanced country life.

“It has allowed us to have a relationship with our visitors that we just couldn’t without 4G in the town,” Michael says.

“Back in March we decided to start doing virtual walks. Very simple: we just take our dog out for a walk and we use Facebook Live, just like the Premier! People comment, ask questions, and that would just not be doable if we didn’t have a 4G service. Now we’re getting on each video in the vicinity of 20,000 views.

“On the one hand that’s really sad, we’re just going out for a walk, but at 3pm a cohort of people just get on their treadmill and come with us,” he says.

More for less

And all that connectivity means that Walhalla can now engage with its fans, grow its businesses all while saving money on their bills according to Cr. Michael Leaney.

While growing the business and interacting with virtual visitors in new ways is good, doing it all while saving money is even better.

Michael showed us one of his previous bills, and talks about how he’s getting more than he ever bargained for with less to pay each month.

“The cost of telecommunications and internet have plummeted around here since the tower was turned on. At my hotel here, my monthly bill now is about $105 a month. Previously it was in the vicinity of $400 a month.

“4G data is a hell of a lot faster too – we went from about 11Mbps to around 40Mbps. We’re getting more bang for our buck.”

Our participation in the Mobile Black Spot Program is part of our long and proud history of investment in regional Australia. When the fourth round of the Program is complete, we will have contributed more than $280 million toward securing better connectivity for rural and regional Australia, and will have built over 780 new sites to improve coverage around the country.

We’re proud to switch on our 600th Mobile Black Spot site in Walhalla, and to connect Australia’s largestmobile network in a community that lives and breathes an important part of the nation’s history.

We look forward to bringing coverage to hundreds more small and remote areas across Australia through our participation in the Mobile Black Spot Program.

Walhalla - 600th Mobile Black Spot under the MBSP
Network | Regional |

Going for gold with our 600th Mobile Black Spot site in Walhalla

By Nikos Katinakis July 16, 2019

The Victorian Gold Rush-era town of Walhalla is the home of our 600th site under the Mobile Black Spot Program, bringing mobile coverage to a town with just 20 permanent residents and a thriving tourist economy.

More than 135 years after electricity was first delivered to the area in 1884, and 128 years after telephone service was hooked up at the local gold mine in 1891, we have connected Walhalla to the world through our mobile network.

The mountainside town can now enjoy the economic and safety benefits of mobile coverage – whether that’s for the town’s 20 year-round residents, or the several thousand that flood in during peak tourism and holiday periods.

Nestled in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, Walhalla was once home to 4000 people during the height of the Victorian gold rush era – not long after the town itself was founded in 1862. The Walhalla Goldfields Railway has survived since then, and memories of the past remain with ghost tours a popular attraction for tourists.

The local community was so passionate about the need to have mobile coverage brought to their town under the Mobile Black Spot Program, they lobbied anyone who would listen. I’m pleased that our local team were able to help the community in their efforts.

Today is another milestone in one of the largest ever expansions of mobile coverage across regional and remote communities in Australia, benefiting agriculture, transport, mining and tourism.

Whether it’s a ride on the Walhalla Goldfields Railway or the local ghost tour, more visitors will be able to share photos and post about their experiences, helping to grow and support the town’s vital tourism industry.

These sectors benefit from and rely on a fast, reliable and affordable mobile network that we provide. We believe that access to mobile connectivity is a crucial part of improving digital inclusion in Australia, and the Mobile Black Spot Program helps to bring rural and regional Australia many of the benefits that our cities already enjoy.

Under the Mobile Black Spot Program, in partnership with local, state and federal Governments, we have delivered:

  • 600 mobile base stations stretching from Monkey Mia in Western Australia to Weipa in the Queensland Cape York peninsula, and coverage to remote central Australian indigenous communities encompassing the APY Lands
  • A further 200 wholly Telstra funded small cells to deliver coverage into areas where it is otherwise not economically feasible to do so
  • Up to 100 million new handset and device registrations to our mobile network in the past two years where new coverage has been delivered under the Mobile Black Spot Program
  • Another 185,000 square kilometres of new coverage to Australian communities (more than twice the size of Tasmania), delivering coverage to 60,000 new premises
  • More than 32,000 emergency calls made through new Telstra sites delivered under the program

Our participation in the Mobile Black Spot Program is part of our long and proud history of investment in regional Australia. When the fourth round of the Program is complete, we will have contributed more than $280 million toward securing better connectivity for rural and regional Australia, and will have built over 780 new sites to improve coverage around the country.

We’re proud to switch on our 600th Mobile Black Spot site in Walhalla, and to connect Australia’s largest and fastest* mobile network in a community that lives and breathes an important part of the nation’s history.

* based on national average combined 3G/4G mobile speeds.

Ballarat farmer near a wind farm in regional Australia
Regional |

A Mobile Black Spot milestone for Wantabadgery

By Michael Marom June 19, 2019

The rural village of Wantabadgery in the New South Wales Riverina region is best known for its Angus cattle grazing pastures, but it’s also the home to our 550th mobile base station delivered under the Mobile Black Spot Program.

Wantabadgery is a village community of around 300, situated about 30 kilometres southeast of Junee and 35 kilometres east of the regional centre of Wagga Wagga. Since we switched on the Wantabadgery mobile base station, locals have embraced the new coverage and have already downloaded more than 4500 gigabytes of data – equivalent to about 1500 HD movies.

Mobile coverage brings with it all the modern conveniences of data for social media, email on the go, and the convenience of making a call or sending a message from wherever you are – rather than having to duck inside to use a landline. It is more than just sharing photos and Facebook updates, though; mobile coverage helps storefronts accept credit card payments and tradies manage their businesses from wherever they are, and it is increasingly becoming an economic necessity.

Our work in partnership with successive Federal Governments to build mobile base stations and small cells under the Mobile Black Spot Program has now delivered its milestone 550th site, and we are well on our way towards the more than 650 sites and $260 million total investment we have committed to the Program since its inception in 2015.

Over the five years to June 2019, our total mobile network investment will total about $8 billion, of which almost $3 billion will have been invested in regional areas. Our nationwide mobile network is supported by more than 10,000 mobile sites covering more than 2.5 million square kilometres, reaching 99.5 per cent of the Australian population.

The Riverina region of NSW is responsible for more than a quarter of the state’s fruit and vegetables, and up to 90 per cent of citrus, wine and grape production. Bringing comprehensive coverage to the agriculture industry is central to our plan with the National Farmers Federation to help unlock digital opportunities for Australia’s farmers.

We see a future for Australia’s agriculture where technologies like 5G and IoT allow farmers to adopt smart, low-power sensors like moisture monitors and ingestible health trackers for livestock to manage their crops and herds more effectively. Improving coverage in mobile black spot areas like Wantabadgery allows these innovations to take place and gives our farmers and rural communities an equal footing in our increasingly connected world.

Woman on mobile phone outside
Network | Regional |

We’re bringing coverage to more communities in regional Australia

By Sri Amirthalingam March 18, 2019

Under Round Four of the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program, we’re building 131 new mobile base stations and small cells to remove black spots and improve coverage for customers living in regional and remote areas.

In Round Four of the Mobile Black Spot Program, we’re contributing $23.3 million of the $55.6 million co-investment required for the new sites, alongside $18 million from the Commonwealth and $14.3 million from the Queensland, SA, Victorian and WA State Governments.

In this round of the Mobile Black Spot Program we will deliver 49 sites to New South Wales, 18 to Queensland, 19 to South Australia, 22 to Victoria and 23 to Western Australia. Many of these locations also address coverage at nearby public interest areas, like tourist attractions and health and emergency services facilities.

After the fourth round of the Mobile Black Spot Program is completed, we will have invested over $280 million and built over 780 new sites to improve coverage for regional areas around the country – a significant proportion of the total 1047 towers co-funded by Government under the Program since 2015.

We’ve already delivered more than 550 new mobile base stations across Australia under the Mobile Black Spot Program, bringing new and improved coverage to regional and remote areas and opening up new opportunities and economic benefits for communities and customers.

After our trial of small cells in Tasmania, we’ll continue to use small cell technology as an innovative and cost-effective approach to fixing black spots. A small cell is essentially a miniature version of a standard mobile base station, allowing us to deliver 4G coverage to areas where existing coverage is minimal or not available without the hundreds of thousands of dollars of infrastructure that a standard mobile base station typically requires.

Improving mobile coverage means people and businesses in regional and remote communities can do many things on the go that those in the cities take for granted – sharing on social media, streaming music and video, working remotely, or simply staying in touch with friends and family regularly. In the past, our Mobile Black Spot Program work has brought mobile coverage to the Pub With No Beer, connected Eggs and Bacon Bay to the world, and helped avocado farmers in Comboyne to monitor crops using IoT.

Over the five years to June 2019, our investment in our mobile network will total around $8 billion, of which around $3 billion will have been invested in regional areas. Our mobile network is supported by more than 9900 mobile base stations, covers more than 2.5 million square kilometres of the country, and reaches 99.5 per cent of the Australian population.

As well as our continued investment in our mobile network and the ongoing roll-out of new and improved coverage under the Mobile Black Spot Program, we’re investing in 5G with more than 200 5G-enabled sites already up and running, and more to come in 2019.