Tech and Innovation | Telstra News |

Growing Australia’s digital economy out of COVID-19

By Andrew Penn June 26, 2020

When COVID-19 made many of us shut our doors, something happened. Digital doors opened in their place. We embraced technology like never before to keep businesses running, people working, kids learning and ourselves entertained.

We now have a growing digital economy – something I recently highlighted as a significant opportunity we as a nation should seize. With businesses reopening and social restrictions relaxing, (albeit with some constraints given the risk of increased infections), we should stop thinking about post-COVID-19 as only a “recovery”, but as an opportunity to grow the economy in the long term and put us in a better global position.

From the Industrial Revolution to the Great Depression, profound disruption has brought opportunities to be bold, to re-think conventional wisdom, and seek out new economic and social opportunities to help build a stronger future for everyone.

COVID-19 has proved change can be made and embraced quickly. During the height of the pandemic we saw a huge acceleration in digitisation – from telehealth to online learning, remote working and e-commerce – and the fast-tracking of numerous policy and regulatory changes to break down long-standing digital roadblocks.

As a nation we have achieved in a few months what might have taken us years to progress, and it is important that we now do not lose that momentum.

However, a single company, a single organisation or a single government cannot achieve this on its own. Through coalitions across the public and private sectors, we can affect change by removing barriers and incentivising growth so it is faster and more pervasive.

Over the past few weeks I have been Chairing the Business Council of Australia (BCA) Digital Economy and Telecommunications working group, and this is exactly our aim: to map out tangible ways we can put Australia at the forefront of a digital future – paperless, cashless and virtual – so we can come out of this stronger as a nation, not just bounce back.

This requires reform in five key areas: 

  1. Digital transition 
  2. Infrastructure 
  3. Regulation 
  4. Cyber Security 
  5. Skills  

1. Digital transition

Australia’s local businesses and enterprises pivoted quickly to ensure they could keep running – from working from home, to medical practitioners delivering telehealth consultations, we even saw interactive online cheese tasting sessions!

Technology was at the core of many businesses that adapted well. That said, a range of recent studies found that Australia’s small-to-medium enterprise sector could be substantially enhanced by a greater investment in digitising their internal processes and developing an effective web presence. Xero’s September 2019 Small Business insights indicate that businesses that boost technology spending the most grow revenue three times faster than those with the weakest technology spend.

Some options we are exploring include potential incentives and assistance to help the small business sector access the benefits of greater digitisation of business processes and an improved online presence.

2. Infrastructure

Connectivity is what powered many workers and businesses during the crisis, ensuring they could continue running.

For Australians to effectively participate in the digital economy, they need access to affordable, fast and reliable telecommunications services.

Telstra announced $500 million of capital expenditure planned for the second half of FY21 would be brought forward into the calendar year 2020, to increase capacity in our network, accelerate our roll-out of 5G, power more people with connectivity as well as provide a much needed economic boost.

With the completion of the nbn rollout nearing, there is now an opportunity for the Australian Government to develop its future vision for Australia’s digital economy and the telecommunications industry for the next decade – a vision that is technology agnostic and provides an environment that is pro-investment and pro-innovation.

3. Regulation

Governments and regulators play a significant role in enabling a digital nation, as well as ensuring as many Australians as possible can take advantage of the opportunity.

They took significant steps forward during the pandemic, including measures to help provide better access to telehealth, virtual AGMs, electronic execution of documents, and national electronic pharmacy scripts.

In the spirit of those last two initiatives, the BCA will be recommending a systematic review of regulation from federal to state to local, to eliminate barriers to a virtual and paperless society and a cashless economy.

4. Cyber Security

Last week was a timely reminder about the importance of strong cyber security, with the Prime Minister highlighting major cyber-attacks that are putting pressure on critical infrastructure and public services.

Cyber security is a large and growing area of risk for the security of the nation, and COVID-19 has increased that risk with so many people working and studying from home, away from traditional security measures.

Separately, I have been working with the Government chairing its industry advisory panel on the development of the 2020 Cyber Security Strategy. This will contain a number of significant initiatives to strengthen our collective cyber defences.

5. Skills

It was inspiring to see the flexible and innovative mindset many businesses adopted during the pandemic. This mindset needs to be deeply ingrained in Australian culture and to do this we need to invest in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) skills.

We have partnered with five Australian universities to jointly develop critical skills and capabilities in areas such as network and software engineering, cyber security and data analytics. But we also need more people entering technology courses, and particularly more diverse talent, including female and Indigenous students.

We are also working on a suite of proposed improvements to the way industry and the education system collaborate, to ensure Australia’s school leavers have the foundation skills needed to succeed in the modern digital economy.

Australia’s opportunity to lead

The economic downturn caused by COVID-19 has left many businesses and families doing it tough and we need to do everything we can to build a stronger economy in the longer term in response.

Australia has been a world leader when it comes to protecting the nation’s health and economy during COVID-19, and now we can lead again. It will be important in so doing that this includes success for all of our communities.

I recently posed the question What type of historical moment will this turn out to be?. As life slowly begins to return to some type of normal, we are approaching a sliding doors moment.

We can go back to the way things were, or we can build on the innovative, can-do mindset that drove so many positive changes during the most significant disruption to daily life in a generation.

Regional |

How to stay connected with antennas and repeaters

By Luke Hopewell April 30, 2020

With many of us now working and learning from home we’re all relying on mobile connectivity more than ever. That means staying online is crucial, especially in regional and rural areas. That’s why we have a range of gear to keep you online when your signal is spotty. Here’s how to get the most out of everything from external antennas to repeaters when in regional and rural Australia.

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What influences your network coverage?

Like any mobile network, coverage on ours depends on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) your device, and whether an external antenna can be attached.

Where you’ll be using your device – whether it’s in a regional, rural or metropolitan area, indoors or out or even out-to-sea – also plays a role.

Finally, obstructions – such as buildings, trees, vehicles, hills and even building materials – can all reduce signal strength between your device and the cell tower.

Check out our coverage maps on Telstra.com and figure out where you can get the best coverage.

Ensuring the best signal strength in rural areas comes down to how you want to use the device out in the bush.

Getting mobile data coverage

Using a mobile data device – such as a smartphone or mobile broadband modem – is a great way to stay connected on the move.

Data rates are often improved by getting greater signal strength and quality to the device. This is achieved via the use of external antennas.

Using a patch cord, you can connect your device to either a medium-gain panel antenna where handheld coverage is available near the installation location, or a high-gain Yagi antenna where handheld coverage is not available near installation location to improve your service.

A panel antenna is most common, and can assist with mobile coverage inside buildings, especially when you’re on the edge of a coverage area. A 2.4-metre yagi antenna, meanwhile, is designed more for outdoor or mobile use.

If installing a yagi antenna, you should ensure it is pointed at the nearest cell tower. For best results, ensure the elements are facing vertically when installing, and the drain hole in the main element is facing downwards.

Also ensure your antenna is securely mounted with the support of a bracket, and installed in a way that it won’t be taken down by the elements.

Getting mobile data and voice coverage

Making sure you can do voice and data in the bush requires a little more than just an antenna and patch cord, however. If you’re within range of your Fixed Broadband Wi-Fi connection and have a compatible Telstra mobile, you can use Telstra Wi-Fi Calling. With Wi-Fi Calling, Your mobile simply uses your W-Fi network instead of the mobile network. So you can make and receive calls as you normally would.

Another way to get it is via a network coverage extension device like a repeater.

Repeaters amplify signal like a PA system. For the repeater to work correctly the antenna picking up mobile signal (your “microphone”, if you will) must be isolated from the antenna giving mobile signal (or “speaker” in this metaphor).

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.

There are a range of devices and repeaters you can use to maximise your voice and data coverage in remote areas, including:

  • Telstra Mobile Smart Antenna (TMSA):
    • Can maximise both 3G and 4G at the same time
    • Consists of two units and can be used with or without external antenna depending on available coverage
    • Designed for in home use and requires 240V power point
  • Telstra Go Repeater:
    • Two types of Telstra Go. There is a mobile unit for a vehicle or a stationary unit for a home/business.
    • Only maximises 3G or 4G at one time, selectable via button on device.
    • Correct installation required
    • Requires separate High Gain Vehicle mount antenna for optimum performance
    • There is an app for both Apple or Android devices that enables checking the performance of the device. The app is called Wave by Nextivity and can be found on the Play Store or App Store.

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Blue Tick-certified

We’ve got all the latest and greatest smartphones on our network, and we make sure they’re rigorously tested before we stock them. The devices that perform the best in tough coverage areas are awarded our highest honour: the Blue Tick.

Our coveted Blue Tick signifies that a mobile device has been thoroughly tested and delivers superior voice coverage in rural and regional areas. Devices are tested for receiver sensitivity in a laboratory under controlled conditions and in rural areas on the Telstra Mobile Network, ensuring optimal call quality for customers.

Read more about what goes into making a phone Blue Tick-certified.

Things you need to know
Depending on device capability and available coverage, network coverage extension devices can improve 3G and 4G coverage on the Telstra Mobile Network. Not all network coverage extension devices allow direct connection to the handset or broadband device. External antenna accessories are only available for selected handset and broadband models. Please refer to the device manufacturer for specifications or contact a Telstra Store for more assistance.
Telstra News |

After a devastating fire season, we’ve made good progress keeping communities connected

By Campbell Simpson February 28, 2020

It has been nearly five months since intense bushfires started burning across Australia, but barely a few weeks have passed since the majority were brought under control.

It is incredible to think back and remember that our country’s most recent bushfire season started in September of last year, and to realise that a reprieve only came recently with a week of strong rains across the eastern states in mid-February.

At the height of the bushfires, we had around 60 mobile sites impacted across key fire grounds in NSW and Victoria. The majority of those impacts were power related, but at least five were damaged by fire and needed extensive repair work.

It has been a mammoth effort from our people that has helped keep communities connected however possible. From day one, our emergency teams and field technicians on the ground were responding to impacted sites – delivering backup generators and batteries, installing temporary mobile cells on wheels, and making repairs to infrastructure wherever possible.

In just a week after the initial fire, we managed to bring the number of impacted sites from 60 down to 15, but difficult conditions over several weeks meant that restoration has been a complex process. Some of our infrastructure – like at Jingellic on the banks of the Murray River bordering NSW and Victoria – were repaired and service restored soon after fires swept through, but then knocked out again days later by returning blazes.

More work to do to restore service to affected areas

We’re now well underway in restoring service to all areas that have been impacted by bushfires and other strong weather over the past few months.

There is still more for us to do to bring back mobile connectivity and fixed line services to some regional and remote areas, especially in areas where our infrastructure is isolated – like towers on hilltops only accessible by fire trails. Access to affected areas often requires coordinating with Rural Fire Service or emergency services in that area, and we follow strict protocols to ensure that our recovery crews operate safely.

We are aware there are some locations and customers still experiencing network disruptions and we are working as quickly as possible to rectify this.  As a result of this our customer assistance packages and free calls and WiFi from payphones will remain open in the following postcode areas:

Suburb Post code 
Balmoral 2571
Batemans Bay 2536
Bega 2550
Buchan, Bruthen, Gelantipy 3885
Cobargo 2550
Conjola 2539
Cooroibah 4565
Corryong 3707
Cudgewa 3705
Genoa 3891
Glen Innes 2370
Kangaroo Island 5220, 5221, 5222, 5223
Kempsey 2440
Mallacoota 3892
Merimbula 2548
Mogo 2536
Nicholson 3882
Quaama 2550
Sarsfield 3875
Tuggeranong 2901
Yeppoon 4703

You can always find up-to-date information on our Outages page. If you are in an area where service has been restored, but are still having difficulty getting connected, please contact us on 132 203 to report a fault.

Winding back payphones and assistance packages

As we come to the end of the active fire season, we are winding down the emergency management groups activated within our business and returning to business as normal. From March 1 we will revert our payphone network and Telstra Air to normal operation and charging with the exception of customers located in the postcode areas above.

We are also closing registrations for our disaster assistance packages for fire-affected areas in NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria from March 1, with the exception of those customers located in the postcode areas above, and registration free mobile bills for firefighters for the months of December and January will cease.

We’re proud to have helped thousands access disaster relief

Over a thousand customers across NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia have registered for our short- and long-term disaster assistance packages that provide relief measures including up to $500 credit on fixed and mobile phone accounts.

Our contact centre teams have fielded nearly 55,000 calls from customers making enquiries and seeking support after fires, and we’ve had contact from over 10,000 firefighters, volunteer firefighters and SES volunteers to cover their mobile phone bills for the months of December and January.

On the 832 payphones in areas that were directly affected by bushfires, more than 2,546,000 free calls were made from since we switched off charging from06 January, totaling 102,209 hours of talk time and around 121,600 SMS were sent.

When we made calls on payphones free, we also opened access to our Telstra Air Wi-Fi. Telstra Air is Australia’s largest Wi-Fi network, broadcasting across over a million hotspots around the country including our pink payphone booths – and we saw a similarly massive uptake from Australians in need.

We’re proud to say that a total of 82.87 terabytes of free data were transferred across Telstra Air from January 6 to now – that’s about 110,000 streaming movies or 230,000 TV show episodes. Over 480,000 people accessed our free Wi-Fi networks during this time; when a couple of minutes on Wi-Fi is a crucial link to the world for messages to family, calls to insurance and emails to loved ones on the other side of the planet, we’re pleased our payphones played their part in keeping communities connected.

We estimate that our contribution to supporting firefighters and communities through assistance packages and donations will be in the order of $10 million, and the total impact on our business to be around $50 million.

From the bottom of our hearts, we want to say a sincere thank you to Australia’s professional and volunteer firefighters and emergency services crews, to the SES, to our government and ADF partners and personnel, for their tireless work in protecting our country’s towns and cities, rural properties and villages from fire – and the critical Telstra infrastructure that keeps those people and places connected.

To all our people – who we have heard countless stories about from community members, who were on the ground offering assistance from a simple phone recharge and a kind word to the most physically strenuous restoration and recovery effort – we are truly grateful.

Regional | Telstra News |

Our assistance package for drought affected Australian customers

By Tim O'Leary August 2, 2018

With parts of Australia impacted by significant drought, including 50 per cent of Queensland and NSW, we are making our natural disaster support arrangements available to all Telstra customers affected by drought across the country.

These support arrangements include working with customers in financial hardship to offer longer-term payment options or extensions, reviewing and removing any administrative fees (e.g. for late payment), and reviewing a customer’s mobile, fixed line and broadband plans to make sure they are affordable.

Affected residential customers are encouraged to contact us at any time on 13 22 00 and say ‘financial hardship’ (Monday to Friday, 8.00 am – 5.00 pm AEST) to discuss their situation. Small Business customers should contact us on 13 20 00 and Premier Business/Telstra Enterprise customers on 13 22 53.

Learn more online.

Business and Enterprise | Network |

Expanding our network presence in the US

By Jim Clarke February 23, 2018

Global connectivity is critical for businesses that are stepping into new markets, operating globally or scaling up quickly to take up new opportunities.

Asia is now home to around half the world’s internet users and is the largest economic region in the world. That’s why we’ve built our heritage, culture and infrastructure in this region to enable thousands of businesses to connect millions of consumers across this global market.

But it goes beyond Asia. The United States has been long recognised as an important business partner for Australia, and provides a compelling opportunity for Australian businesses seeking expansion.

Findings from the Connecting Commerce whitepaper, which we commissioned from the Economist Intelligence Unit, identified that San Francisco, New York and Chicago were amongst the top 20 cities in the Digital Cities Barometer.

San Francisco recorded the second highest barometer reading overall of the 45 cities. Unsurprisingly New York, which ranked 11th overall, rated fifth for its financial environment and sixth for innovation and entrepreneurship.

With continued investment to maintain our network leadership in Asia – with a global subsea cable system spanning over 400,000 kilometres – we are also building on our well-established presence in the US.

This month, we announced the expansion of our network to four new locations – Atlanta, Dallas, Denver and Seattle, with infrastructure to enable expanding Australian, Asian and other international businesses to have seamless network access deep into the United States.

We’ve been operating in the United States for over 20 years already, with businesses including Telstra Ventures – which is Australia’s number one leading corporate innovator, with over $375 million invested in more than 50 technology companies since 2011.

We also work in partnership with world-leading technology companies throughout the US like Microsoft, Cisco, Google and Amazon for everything from subsea cables to cloud collaboration platforms.

It’s an exciting time to be a global business. Our heritage as a leading telecommunications company with $28.2 billion revenue and 30 years of experience connecting US customers to Asia gives our business customers the confidence to reach these new exciting markets.

With offices in New York, San Francisco and Washington DC, operating eight landing stations covering the East and West coasts, we’re excited to enable more of our customers to focus on their core business by relying on our diverse network.