How To |

A timeline of how to prepare for disaster season

By Paul Harrison October 7, 2021

Summer in Australia means long hot days, days at the beach, balmy nights and late sunsets. But it can also bring with it bushfires, heatwaves, cyclones and floods. Like it or not, disaster season is annual, and we need to be ready. Here’s how you can prepare, no matter when you start.

The effects of climate change mean that severe weather events are becoming more pronounced and more frequent. Staying prepared and ready for these potentially ferocious events is incredibly important – and can quite frankly, be the difference between life and death.

It’s important to note that many of these disasters are a matter of if – not when. So it’s vital you prepare and plan for disaster as early as possible.

Whether you’re well prepared or are more likely to get your gear together on evacuation day, we’ve got a disaster preparedness checklist for you. Please bear in mind: this is a checklist for the tech you need to take with you to stay connected and shouldn’t be treated as a full guide on what to take in the event of a disaster. For a full disaster preparedness checklist, take a look at one prepared by your State Emergency Service like this one from NSW.

The prepper: five weeks out

You’re already preparing for disaster season five weeks out? You’re doing great! You’ve got a lot of time up your sleeve to do stuff that will really get you prepared for the worst.

Of course, it’s important to remember that we can’t prepare for every eventuality, and sometimes things still go wrong. But staying as prepared as you can means you have the best chance of staying online and in touch with everyone from loved ones to emergency services.

These are the tasks that take the longest ahead of a disaster, and when you’re within a week or even a few hours of an evacuation order, you probably won’t have time to get it all done. If you’re the prepper reading this, you should do everything in this section and the below sections too.

Let’s go!

Download emergency services apps

First things first: these official apps will give you the most up-to-date information on what’s happening in your area, including natural disaster warnings.

Be alert to changing conditions

Subscribe to services that will alert you to weather changes, road closures and updates from other service providers in your area.

Back up your data

Store your important data, like contact information and personal photos, in the cloud using an online service. If you have an Apple or Google device, these smartphones have automatic backups to make sure your photos are always saved.

Save your emergency numbers as priorities

Store a list of essential contact numbers for your local Police, Fire, SES teams as well as friends and family on your phone and as a non-electronic, ideally waterproofed, backup. Make sure you include our dedicated disaster assistance number – 1800 888 888.

You can save these numbers in your device so they’ll appear on your Favourites tab for quick and easy access.

When you have your list of essential numbers, make sure you make a printed copy to keep in your wallet, purse or bag, and keep a version in your car as well. Power can go out for a week or longer during a disaster. Keeping a printed copy means that if your phone is out of battery and you need an important phone number, you have it handy at all times. If you really want to take it to the next level – laminate the card so it’s now waterproof. You are the prepper after all!

Consider a satellite phone or repeater device

Sometimes in a disaster, the traditional communications network can go out in your area due to infrastructure being affected. But you know what doesn’t get impacted so easily? Space. That’s why we keep satellites up there.

In rural and regional areas, a satellite phone should usually be independent of any damaged infrastructure and can operate in remote locations. If your communications are critical or if you’re in an isolated area, a satellite phone backup could come in handy. And if you only have one, make sure it’s charged and accessible in the event you do need to use it.

You can also take a look at our range of repeaters and extenders to see if one suits your needs. Legal network coverage extension devices amplify the existing network signal your mobile device receives, which extends the area that your device can work in. These devices can help you connect to the Telstra mobile network from further away than normally possible, or in areas where a signal may struggle to penetrate – such as indoors, or in hilly or dense terrain.

It’s important to note that boosters are illegal to own or operate on any network in Australia, and they can disrupt or even prevent others from making calls to emergency 000.

Get a corded phone

A cordless fixed line phone is convenient, but remember, most cordless phones rely on electric power to operate, so you may lose the use of your landline during a power outage. A corded phone draws its electricity directly from the phone line (excluding fixed line phones on nbn) and can be used during a power outage.

It’s important to remember that since the nbn provides your home phone line, it will be unavailable during a power outage. It’s best to have a mobile phone or satellite phone handy for this instance, especially in remote areas.

The just-in-case: five days out

You’ve just heard the news: there’s flooding predicted in your area this week. Or you’re in a high fire danger area and there’s a hot, windy day predicted this week. Or there’s a cyclone forming off the coast.

Whatever the type of disaster, if you’ve been provided warning and if you start now, you can prepare adequately for the worst.

You won’t have time to do some of the things you might have wanted to do five weeks ago like order T-Go repeaters or satellite phones, for example, but you can spend a bit of time running through the rest of the checklist.

If you’re the “just-in-case” planner, you should follow everything on this list and the section below.

Invest in an alternative charger

If you don’t already have one, purchase a phone charger that isn’t dependent on a power outlet. A popular choice is a ‘power bank’ battery pack that can be charged from a power outlet prior to an event and used if grid electricity is unavailable, or a portable solar panel charger or in-car charger.

Know your plug for faster phone charging

Did you know that some phones only need a few minutes on the power to speedily revive themselves? It’s called fast charging.

Modern smartphones charge differently depending on what adapter you have that plugs into the wall. Looking up the wattage your phone can charge at on the manufacturer’s website is key to getting the right info here.

Manufacturers often don’t include the highest wattage charger your phone can take in the box, so you’ll need to invest in one if you’re interested in fast charging.

Enable Wi-Fi calling

If the mobile network signal is down during a disaster, you can still use your mobile phone to make and receive calls and text messages, where there’s available Wi-Fi coverage and provided your mobile device supports Wi-Fi Calling. Wi-Fi Calling provides basic voice-calling capability on compatible devices when you’re connected to a supported Wi-Fi network and can’t connect to the Telstra mobile network.

We’ve also switched on SMS over Wi-Fi, allowing you to receive texts via your fixed line connection when you’ve got Wi-Fi coverage. Here’s our FAQs on how to set it up in case you haven’t already.

The last minute: five hours out

Your phone just went off with the State Emergency Service’s evacuation order.

No matter where you heard it, it’s time to go. Here’s our checklist for the absolute essentials you need to know.

Charge your phone. Right now.

Every second matters when you need power. Anyone looking to charge their phone before heading out of the house knows this. And if you got a text recommending evacuation, you might not know when you’ll be near a working power point again.

Charge your phone on the highest wattage charger you can find in the house for as long as you can. Don’t forget to turn it on loud while you do this so you can hear calls and messages come through.

When you’re ready to leave, take the phone and the charger. You might not be able to find another one of these in a hurry if you’re evacuated.

Use local information sources

Online, social media accounts for your local authorities and emergency services will share crucial information. Your local broadcaster will also share information over the radio – make sure you have a battery-powered radio or car radio to listen in on.

Below we’ve provided a short list of some official information sources from various federal, state and territory governments that you should read if you’re preparing yourself and your home against disaster.

Government agencies for emergency response information:

Other critical information websites:

Network |

Bringing better coverage to regional Queensland

By Sri Amirthalingam August 23, 2021

Throughout the pandemic, demand for connectivity has surged. We’re on a mission to improve coverage in rural and regional Australia to ensure the thirst for data is quenched. As part of this project, we’re bringing a communications boost to rural and remote communities in North Queensland.

We’re partnering on the lion’s share of the Federal Government’s North Queensland Telecommunications and Energy Improvement projects, making Telstra the largest telco partner on this program.

It means that we’ll be building mobile base stations, satellite small cells, and will provide battery backup solutions to vastly improve our existing 4G mobile coverage in the region. 

Cloncurry, Carpentaria and McKinlay shires are just some of the communities to benefit from these projects that will provide improved connectivity for residents, farmers and tourists, and will be particularly important during natural disaster events like floods.

Strong coverage is something many of us take for granted, but if you’re running a business or get into trouble on the roads, connectivity is vital. It’s the difference between making a sale and not; attending a class and not; or being able to call for help in times of unexpected trouble.

We’re going full steam ahead to make sure that regional and rural Australia have the connectivity they need for the future.

This new grant program joins a host of funding we’re injecting into regional and rural Australia to strengthen the connectivity backbone.

We have earmarked $150 million for regional infrastructure over the next 12 months, and committed a further $200 million to encourage co-investment with governments and businesses to improve connectivity in regional Australia over the next four years. We are also co-funding new mobile towers and improved high-speed broadband services across 72 communities that need it the most as part of the Federal Government’s Regional Connectivity Program.

And under the Federal Government Mobile Black Spot Program, we’ve invested more than three times more funding than the rest of the industry put together, and we’re building more than two thirds of all mobile base stations jointly funded under the program – that’s around 930 new sites to improve coverage for regional areas around the country.

We will also be pouring an additional $75 million from the part sale of our Telstra InfraCo Towers business to bolster this vast program of work.

As the digital economy accelerates around us, we can’t let regional Australia fall behind. The promise of connectivity has to be one that’s fulfilled for all Australians. That way, the kids of Cloncurry Shire and Potts Point can sit in the same virtual classrooms together to learn and share knowledge. Rural businesses can compete on the digital High Street and everyone who needs it can have a virtual appointment with their doctor, whether they’re down the road or on the other side of the country.

Southern Cross Subsea Cable Network route survey
Everyone connected | Network | Tech and Innovation |

Keeping Australia connected to the world

By Harry Tucker August 18, 2021

A lot of us think that every Instagram post we upload, Tweet we send or movie we stream comes to Australia through satellites, but the truth lies at the depths of our oceans.

For Australians, about 99% of our digital connectivity to the rest of the world comes through subsea cables. We currently own or operate about 400,000km of these cables across the ocean floor – so much in fact, that you could lap the world 10 times with that amount of cable.
Just about every bit of communication we make goes through these cables. From calling your family overseas to streaming Formula 1 and versing someone in Fortnite from Singapore. Basically anything and everything.

A short history of subsea cables

Australia’s first subsea cable went from Darwin to Indonesia almost 150 years ago. Back then, it wasn’t for streaming Netflix, but was rather a telegraph cable that essentially transmitted morse code. Transmitting just one word back then could take several minutes.

The first major advancement in Australia’s subsea cables came in the 1960s with our first telephone cable which connected Sydney to Canada via New Zealand called COMPAC and cost over $100 million to complete. It might seem like a bit of a weird connection , but this was because it connected Commonwealth countries. Not only did this cable allow us to make phone calls to New Zealand and Canada, it also was crucial for airports and shipping companies to be able to communicate. COMPAC and other Commonwealth cables such as SEACOM (Cairns to Hong Kong) and ANZCAN (replaced COMPAC), were officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

The COMPAC cable was the first of many analogue cable systems that connected Australia to the rest of the world, but as the internet started to gain popularity in the 1990s they were no longer enough to carry the huge of amounts of data growth that was to come.
This ushered in the era we are in now of optical fibre cables, capable of 1000s of times the amount of capacity as traditional analogue cables. Using rapid pulses of laser light carried by hair-thin glass strands, this new technology could transmit data at much higher capacity and drastically reduce delay, or latency as it’s often called.

Our first fibre cable was called the TASMAN2 and connected Australia with New Zealand from 1992, capable of transmitting around 1 gigabit per second, or about as much as a lot of individual homes can now access just on their own.

Just 9 years later, cables we were laying, like the Australia-Japan cable were now capable of speeds of up to 640 gigabits per second state of the art at the time.

Keeping the light on

Manufacturing, laying and connection subsea cables across the ocean is a big task on its own, but maintaining them can sometimes prove almost as difficult.

Some of our cables run thousands of metres underwater, with one cable connecting us to Guam that crosses the Mariana Trench, the deepest water in the planet. So fixing one of these is not quite the same as pulling the manhole off on the side of the road.

Even just getting the grappling hook down to the cable to get to it to repair any damage can take a whole day just to reach it.

Thankfully though, it’s quite rare for damage to occur at these depths, as most damage to subsea cables is caused by fishing gear and ship anchors. So most damage happens in relatively shallow waters of around 100-1000 metres below the surface where fishing activity is more likely to take place and get caught up with.

We also sometimes see damage happen due to subsea earthquakes or from big landslides after cyclones and typhoons. But as technology gets better at marine surveying, these are becoming less of an issue as we can use advanced sonar techniques to better understand the environment we lay these cables in.

While surveying, our teams have even discovered underwater volcanoes that have never been recorded before, which we of course avoid routing the cables near.

60 years ago if a cable went down it might cause a big problem with our ability to connect. These days with such a diverse and large network path, if a cable is broken and getting repaired, which can take about a week, it’s less of an issue. Now we’re able to reroute traffic to other cable segments.

With a growing demand for data and connecting to the world, we continuously need to upgrade or commission new cables. Our latest subsea cable is called INDIGO and connects Singapore, Perth, Sydney and Jakarta, with a mammoth 36 terabit capacity, enough to steam millions of movies a second.

We’ve come a long way from the days of waiting minutes to send a single word from Darwin to Indonesia.

Connecting Australia to the world is why.

Telstra 5G network at 50 per cent
Network |

Why spectrum matters for regional connectivity

By Lyndall Stoyles July 14, 2021

Later this year the Government will auction off 20-year licences for ‘low band’ mobile spectrum and its currently considering how much spectrum each mobile provider can buy.

Spectrum is what carries the calls and data between mobile towers and your phone – the more spectrum we can access, the more data that can be carried to your devices. There are different frequencies of spectrum, with ‘low band’ being essential for carrying mobile data over the vast distances needed across regional and rural areas.

What’s happening

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has recommended the Government limit the amount of low band spectrum we can bid for in the auction, which would leave us with less than what we have today in regional areas.

This is a major policy decision that will dictate the economic and social outcomes for the bush for a generation.

Without access to the right amount of mobile spectrum, customers in regional towns will likely experience congestion and slower mobile speeds, and a delay to the rollout of 5G. This will create a two-tier digital economy that will impact education, health and business outcomes, particularly in rural and remote areas.

We’re not asking for more spectrum than we need, and we’re not asking to limit what Optus or TPG could bid for in any way. And we’re also not asking for spectrum to be set aside for our exclusive use like our competitors have.

What it means for you

We’re absolutely committed to the people, communities and businesses in regional Australia and we’ve invested billions of dollars to extend and enhance our mobile network to the far reaches of our country. Because of this our mobile network now covers one million square kilometres more than any other telco. And in many cases we’re the only game in town when it comes to 5G.

We want to keep extending our network and bring the latest technology to regional Australia, but this will be difficult to do if we don’t have the spectrum available to us.

A report by global economic consulting company, Compass Lexecon, found limiting Telstra’s spectrum will lead to worse outcomes for regional Australia, including service degradation and potentially higher prices to fund the extra infrastructure we need to make up for the lack of sufficient spectrum.

This doesn’t have to be the case. We’re not asking for other mobile providers to be restricted in any way – we’re just seeking to maintain a proportion of low band spectrum that’s similar to what we have today.

We’re pleased the Government is currently considering alternative spectrum limits and will soon make their decision on this.

We don’t want to alarm you, but we think it’s only fair that you’re aware of any decision that may impact your connectivity. We want to support regional Australia but we need the Government’s support to do this.

Telstra Careers |

High frequency: a day in the life of a tower climber

By Luke Hopewell July 14, 2021

We’ve been working flexibly for some time, but what does your day look like when your office is almost 100 metres off the ground, often in the middle of nowhere? Here’s why Repairer Constructor Aaron Wallace does it.

“What’s our actual job title? Good question!” Aaron tells me from a field in country New South Wales. For Aaron, the title isn’t why he does the job. For him, it’s about the adventure.

Aaron travels all over the state with a crew of other riggers and technicians, climbing our cell broadcast towers daily to perform regular maintenance, repairs and upgrades.

“Every Thursday we get our marching orders for the following week – and then on the Friday we load up our gear,” Aaron tells me, his words punctuated by the sound of the cool winter wind whipping through country NSW.

“Our toolbelt changes a lot,” he adds, “but everyone has a basic pouch.”

“Whenever we pack our gear, it’s always safety first. We always have to stay 200 per cent attached,” he explains.

When he’s not driving gear around the state, Aaron’s winching heavy telco equipment into the air to mount on our towers. It’s a job that involves a lot of risk, so there’s a lot of safety nous that has to go into it.

At all times, Aaron and his team stay connected to the tower by two or three points on their harness. We’re talking professional climbing gear here.

And while thinking about all of that, Aaron has to navigate the vertical ascent with transmitters, power equipment and more.

“More and more stuff is going up our towers as the tech advances,” he tells me. It used to be that the hut sitting next to the tower contained all the gear, and the tower just held a broadcast antenna. “Not anymore,” says Aaron.

“We found that the closer the tech is to the actual antenna tower itself, the better the results are. So now a lot of things have moved out of the hut and up the tower.”

The higher you get, the weirder it is to see certain things, Aaron says of his experience climbing towers.

“There are quite a few weird stories I can tell at BBQs,” he laughs.

“The other week when the cold snap came through and we were in the Bathurst/Mudgee area it was actually snowing for the first time in years. As we drove to a job, we noticed all the trees had fallen down on our route. So we got out and used our winches every 200 metres to drag fallen trees off the road so people could get through!

“We even saw a family stranded in a hole and we dragged them out while they were waiting for the fire brigade.”

And there’s plenty of wildlife that use our towers for a different kind of connection to home.

“There’s a nest up almost every tower,” Aaron explains. Some of the coastal towers around Forster and Port Macquarie are really special, as you get to see loads of Osprey and their little babies. They’re hesitant at first but you can see them getting fed by the mother bird if you hang around long enough.”

“Some of the boys have even seen snakes up the tower!”

Aaron has been climbing towers for over eight years, and he says he wouldn’t give it away any time soon. He loves his aerial office, and the chance to see the world outside his window.

“Why do I do it? I just love the lifestyle of the job.

“A lot of people don’t like working away, but I love the outdoors. Camping; going rural. I love to travel around, and I’m a physical worker. Not so good on computers, me! I like to get out and see everywhere and climb it.”

You can see Aaron at work in our new campaign below, titled Australia is Why.