Network | Regional |

Working against mice to keep Australia connected

By Michael Marom July 20, 2021

For almost 12 months now, farmers and rural landowners across southeast Australia have been devastated by a once-in-a-decade mouse plague, chewing through crops and damaging property and machinery.

While farmers have felt the brunt of this the most, our network in these areas has also been feeling the impacts, with mice gnawing their way through everything from our phone exchanges to cabling in our customers’ homes and businesses.

We know our customers in regional Australia rely on us to keep them connected and our field teams have been working tirelessly to prevent these little critters from entering and damaging our infrastructure and buildings.

How our network gets hit

Mice are sneaky little buggers, and they inherently love to chew to keep their teeth from growing. Unfortunately for us, copper and fibre cabling provide perfect chewing targets for mice to keep this urge satisfied. It also doesn’t help that they have babies every 30 days and like to chew through timber and paper within buildings to make nests for breeding.

Being so small, it can be quite easy for mice to enter buildings – whether it’s simply coming straight under the front door, squeezing through cable entry points or coming through the wall-mounted air conditioner units.

Outside of loving to chew, mice also love to nestle themselves near anything that’s warm, especially during colder months. Our transmission and internet equipment make a perfect warm environment for these mice to live in, with up to 50 mice happily living in a space as big as your bedroom closet.

The mice are also more than happy to empty themselves wherever they see fit, which can cause short circuits and faults in our electrical equipment.

Network equipment after mice

Keeping the mice out

The first point of call for our team has been to try and devise ways to keep mice out of our buildings and infrastructure as best we can.

Taking a ‘better out than in’ approach – and armed with steel wool, silicone and foam filler – our technicians have focused on closing any gaps that mice could enter through by blocking light fittings, vent holes, cable points and conduits. It’s not unusual for our team working on this to open a cabinet and find a dozen tiny eyes glaring back at them, either.

Don’t forget, these little guys go to the bathroom anywhere they want, and there are a lot of them, so working to close out the gaps is a job that comes with a bit of dry-heaving for the team working on it.

Once our facilities are all sealed up, we set eco-friendly bait and traps throughout the building, leave the mice inside and come back later to see if we’ve had success.

Properly sealing everything can prove quite difficult, and it can often take two or three visits to get it completely right. Once that’s done, we finish up with a big clean-out of the facility (goodbye stench!) with the help of our health and safety team before repairing equipment.

Moving forward, outside of making sure we can keep these mice out, an important task for the team will be keeping a close eye on all our equipment for faults as it can be compromised by mice dirt.

Keeping Australia connected is at the core of everything we do and will continue to do – even if that means some of us having to occasionally fix a cable in a bit of mouse mess.

An update on our September 30 BGP issue
Telstra News |

An update on our September 30 BGP issue

By Mark Duffell October 2, 2020

Earlier this week, a technical error meant that some internet traffic was incorrectly routed through our network. While minimal traffic was actually received due to protection mechanisms in place around the internet, we’re investigating and will share our findings.

How the issue occurred

For just under three hours on September 30, between 03:46 and 06:32 AEST, an incorrect network configuration was deployed to one of our Telstra Edge routers that form part of our link to the global internet and which handle traffic routing. That configuration incorrectly advertised 500 IPv4 prefixes as belonging to Telstra, unintentionally routing some internet traffic through our network. You may have seen some information on this incident already from the email service provider ProtonMail.

The incident was triggered by post verification testing that was being run to address an unrelated software bug in our Telstra Internet Direct provisioning tools. A previous test verification prefix set was incorrectly loaded against a production service, which meant these prefixes were then announced to the global internet through Border Gateway Protocol (BGP).

How BGP works and why this happened

In simple terms, BGP supplies all the different networks that make up the internet with a quick guide to the fastest routes to each corner of that combined network. BGP peers regularly announce updated routes to each other, and those updates propagate from peer to peer. It’s that system that allows the autonomous systems that make up the internet to create the fastest and most efficient routes for data to travel. In this case, the incorrect configuration was announced to peers that then adopted it and announced it to others, amplifying the technical error.

BGP is open and relies on trust by design, but various protection mechanisms are implemented in networks around the world to protect against unsolicited or invalid changes. Our investigation indicates minimal traffic was observed in our network during the period, and it’s our understanding that these protection measures internationally helped to reduce the overall routing impact. We’ve been supportive of the industry making changes to RPKI Route Origin Validation to improve some of the known vulnerabilities of BGP, and have implemented RPKI on our own Australian network and are in the process of rolling this out to our global networks.

It’s important to understand that the root cause of this interruption was not malicious in nature, the routes were not intentionally hijacked, and no emails or data were breached or lost. As soon as our investigation revealed the cause of the issue, we engaged Level 3 Network staff who rolled back the network configuration to resolve the impact.

What we’re doing about it

To stop this from happening again, we’ve temporarily disabled the provisioning testing tools that caused this until we can ensure it won’t happen again. We’re also modifying our route validation to prohibit the kind of bulk upload for static routes that was the initial cause of this issue.

We’d like to apologise for any service issues experienced by other parties. We’re in the process of undertaking a post incident review to examine our testing, validation and network escalation paths and will share our findings within the global internet network operators’ technical community when that is complete.

Business and Enterprise |

Adapting for a flexible future

By Michael Ebeid AM September 30, 2020

Work is no longer just a physical place but a virtual one driven by connectivity. Today’s workforce doesn’t rely as much on desks and meeting rooms but instead on applications delivered from the cloud. Connectivity now saturates every part of an organisation. It’s the brain. The heart. The backbone that binds ideas together to deliver business outcomes.

We are witnessing a once-in-a-decade shift in the way businesses are engaging with technology and networking. This change is bigger than just a “G” shift such as the move from 3G to 4G. It’s about a new way of working in an increasingly competitive market where connectivity can deliver the entire margin of victory.

When we sat down to think about how businesses would rely on connectivity for the next decade, we knew we had to deliver solutions with the utmost flexibility, simplicity and reliability. So rather than simply continue to iterate our enterprise network offerings, we’re turning over the table to bring you something new. It’s called Adaptive Networks, and it does what it says on the box: provides business with networks that adapt to their needs.

This is a huge commitment from Telstra to radically change the way our teams deliver connectivity solutions to businesses. We’re being bold, disrupting not only the market, but ourselves, by removing complicated contracts to provide you with a leading solution that fits your vision for the next decade and beyond.

Meeting uncertainty with flexibility

Adaptive Networks enables us to lay out a menu of connectivity options for our customers to pick and choose from, with the ability to easily change or scale those solutions up or down.

Phase one of Adaptive Connectivity, launching today, includes Telstra Fibre access, Private networks and a range of Internet options, including Telstra Internet Direct Premium Adapt and Telstra Internet Direct Lite Adapt, with new NBN options to be introduced in December. Next year, the addition of Telstra 4G and 5G mobile integration will introduce enterprise-grade rapid start connectivity and further boost network resiliency, as well as offering wireless-only solutions.

When COVID-19 began to sweep around the world, businesses were forced to rapidly shift their thinking and do what we always do when crisis strikes: adapt.

It’s hard to know what the landscape will look like in three months, let alone in three years. With that in mind, we’re moving to month-to-month services with no lock-in contracts and simplified pricing to give customers the flexibility they need to adapt to their changing business needs.

The ability to pick and choose services with no lock in contracts will give our customers the agility to pivot to meet challenges head-on, such as the mass move to remote working we saw earlier this year. This is a significant change to today’s environment of bundled, less flexible solutions.

A software-defined future

As companies around Australia grapple with the accelerating need to digitise every aspect of their organisation, their network – and increasingly SD-WAN – are key enablers of transformation.

That’s why we’ve invested heavily in our Adaptive SD-WAN solutions and paired them with our deep technical expertise from Telstra Purple to guide our customers through the journey to software-defined networking.

Our investments, experience and partnerships with leading vendors including Cisco and Meraki and VMware make us a leader when it comes to our SD-WAN offering. In a world where transitions to SD-WAN can be difficult and time-consuming, we have the expertise, partnerships, automation and services to make it easy.

The right fit for the right future

In unveiling our vision for the next decade of enterprise networking, today is just the beginning. Over the coming months and years, we will continue to expand our Adaptive Networks solutions.

We are developing an edge compute environment using Telstra fibre, 4G/5G network capabilities with a range of technology partners and we will continue to invest millions in our networks. Ultimately, we’re giving our enterprise customers the right fit for the right future, arming them with the flexibility to roll with any changes as they occur.

The world has changed. Demand for bandwidth has never been greater, and the importance of powerful reliable core networks has never been as important to deliver the digital experiences employees and customers expect.

Adaptive Networks will meet these changes, giving businesses a multitude of reliable, powerful and secure connectivity options. The power to adapt; to thrive.

We’ve worked with businesses using SD-WAN to find out what these adopters truly value, and published the findings in a whitepaper report you can read from Omdia.

We’ll also have more to share on Adaptive Networks at our annual Vantage conference. Don’t miss out on virtual front row seats.

Telstra network upgrade, Flinders Island
Network | Regional |

Building a network for the future for Flinders and Cape Barren Islands

By Michael Patterson September 25, 2020

Flinders and Cape Barren Islands have received an $11 million dollar network upgrade, with our funding joined by local, state and Federal Government investment to provide the region with improved communications and mobile network connectivity. This puts Flinders on the map and ensures its connected future, giving it the foundations for a thriving economic and tourism industry.

Flinders Island, one of 52 islands in the Furneaux Group dotted across the Bass Strait north east of Tasmania, has had an $11 million telecommunications upgrade, funded as part of the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) giving locals and visitors the chance to experience better connectivity than ever before.

One of the key parts of this project is a new radio tower – 100 kilometres north-east of Launceston at Waterhouse – which creates the longest radio link across water anywhere on our network, connecting Flinders and Cape Barren Islands with Tasmania and the rest of the world.

At 80m tall, the new radio tower is Tassie’s third largest structure and required over 39 tonnes of steel, 3,000 bolts and a 300-tonne crane to build.

Not to be overshadowed by the epic new tower, we’ve also installed about 83km of new optical fibre to link major population centres on Flinders Island, along with two new-generation microwave radio systems.

We’ve also upgraded our mobile base station sites at Mt Tanner, Middle Patriarch, Hayes Hill and Vinegar Hill, jumping from 3G to superfast 4GX. And there are four new speedy mobile base stations at Killecrankie, Palana, Blue Rocks and Cape Barren Island to extend the reach of our leading network to more people.

With the final part of the project being completed in April 2020, we now cover 98.7 per cent of Tasmania’s population using more than 300 mobile sites across our southernmost state.

This project has boosted the connectivity for the locals on the island and provided much improved mobile and internet services, which are vital to a region that thrives on tourism. The upgrades lay the groundwork for the network into the future, including scalable solutions for the local school, hospital and emergency services. Flinders Island is now ready to embrace a digital future.

There’s no two ways about it: Telstra is Australia’s go-to regional network. We have a proud history of supporting regional and rural customers. This upgrade links Flinders Island to Australia and the world, bringing new opportunities to live, work and play for the island’s residents and visitors alike.

Southern Cross Subsea Cable Network route survey
Business and Enterprise | Network |

Keeping the world online during COVID-19

By Oliver Camplin-Warner May 28, 2020

When COVID-19 sent workers out of their offices and into their homes, people wanted one thing more than masks, gloves and toilet paper – they wanted data, and lots of it. While we’ve been ensuring the health and safety of our team is our top priority, this explosion in demand for data – which has set new records on an almost daily basis – has seen us working around the clock to maintain our international network during this pandemic.

Our international network sees a dizzying amount of traffic on any given day, but the increase in data being sent back-and-forth during COVID-19 is truly massive. Data demands have spiked significantly, seemingly overnight, by up to 50% on our international networks.

The mission

Telstra International works to connect the world to Asia, and Asia to the world. We’re proud to have the largest subsea cable network in the Asia-Pacific region, also spanning the crucial trans-Pacific route to connect the world.

Threading more than 400,000kms under the ocean floor, it circles the world almost 10 times. These connections are submerged beneath the waves, meaning that protecting, maintaining and innovating them is a full-time job for our cross-regional team. We’re always striving for better connectivity via subsea cables.

But when the pandemic hit, we realised that we needed to double down on our mission and ensure our network – which provides crucial connectivity for applications and platforms around the world – stays strong, connected and resilient for not only our customers, but our customers’ customers.

We’ve managed to keep our network alive and thriving thanks to the substantial capacity and headroom we have available to cater for unexpected traffic peaks.

Subsea cable repairs

Staying connected

The sudden and significant spike in traffic has come from several sources – the upticks in use of video for work, play and education, as well as large-scale Software as a Service (SaaS) adoption from companies moving their businesses online.

We found early on that people wanted to stay informed, entertained and even well-educated. Research by cybersecurity firm, Imperva, found that network traffic increased dramatically for news (+64%); retail (+28%); gaming (+28%); education (+17%), and law/government services (+17%). Meanwhile, there was a decrease in network traffic related to sports (-46%); travel (-42%), and automotive (-35%).

Companies rapidly adopting online tools such as Cisco WebEx and Microsoft Office 365 are particularly keen to ensure their connectivity stays strong during this time, and we’re working hard to enable this pivot.

For example, we’ve upgraded WebEx links to data centres as we experience huge increases in the number of virtual meetings taking place. We have seen WebEx traffic grow significantly and globally, while Cisco traffic in March increased by 66% compared to pre-global lockdown.

We’re also splitting traffic to allow direct access to Office 365 and WebEx without clogging up corporate networks that may not have the headroom we do.

We connect 11 of the top 12 technology companies in the Fortune 500 to Asia. As such, we’re continuing to work hard with all of our relevant partners on increasing capacity within their networks to keep up with the demand and deliver data efficiently. We’ll continue this work post-COVID-19 as businesses continue to change the way they work.

Our people are also working hard across the Asia-Pacific region to enable this boost to our connectivity stack. When the pandemic broke out, our first and top priority was the health and wellbeing of our team. As seasoned workers from home, we were able to quickly move to remote working, with those who couldn’t split into A and B-teams across Hong Kong and Singapore, with one team working in the main Network Operations Centre and the second working in a back-up facility to build resilience in our people as well as our network.

Meanwhile, our cable maintenance ships worked with port operators around Asia to ensure they could continue working on our network at sea. We pre-booked hotel rooms in the region to hold crews for 14-days prior to a ship coming in so that they were cleared to board the ship when it was time to changeover. And to keep ships operational, we used supply vessels to replenish stock at sea.

We’re always ready to roll with changing circumstances to keep the world connected.

The demand for data is unlikely to drop, even as restrictions are scaled back around the world. Our networks are already designed to manage a significant increase in traffic with minimal impact on services, which is critical during times like these.

We’ve assessed the utilisation of our network between countries and continents, as different areas respond in different ways to the pandemic, which allows us to implement business continuity planning to ensure we’re keeping the network performing for everyone who needs it.