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The year ahead for regional investment

Regional Network

Posted on February 8, 2018

3 min read

With hundreds of new base stations, small cells and site upgrades built over the last 6 months or scheduled around the country during the next 6 months, this financial year (FY18) is shaping up as a big year for expanding mobile coverage for regional Australia.

Whenever we meet our customers who live, holiday or work in regional Australia, whether we’re serving them at a regional store or chatting at a community event, the one thing they all share with us is the importance of mobile coverage. Coverage that means they can connect to each other, to businesses, to emergency services.

This isn’t an emerging theme, and we have been building a network that supports the connectivity needs of our regional customers for decades.

Over the previous three financial years alone, Telstra has invested $2.2 billion in its regional mobile network so more Australians can experience a connected world that supports their way of life.

Our mobile network coverage is around one million square kilometres larger than any other provider in Australia – that’s equivalent to the landmass of the United Kingdom and France combined.

And we’re continuing that large-scale investment across the country. To name just a few locations, we are investing $39 million in northern Queensland, $20 million in Gippsland in Victoria and $75 million in central and southern Western Australia this financial year to increase coverage and enhance our mobile network for regional communities.

This includes our contributions to the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spots Program, where we are delivering more than 500 new 3G/4G mobile base stations in regional Australia. Late last month, we announced we had turned on the 300th site as part of this program.

The 300th blackspot base station site was in Wellington Mill, located in the fruit growing Ferguson River Valley in Western Australia, where the importance of connectivity to farmers to run their businesses more efficiently and sustainably.

From farmers using mobile coverage to connect to agricultural apps that let them remotely monitor the moisture levels of the soil and the health of livestock, to a local leather trading store and museum that can now take credit card payments, business is better when it’s connected.

And we’re now using drones to safely inspect mobile infrastructure shortly after disasters, where previously we had to wait until it was safe to access and climb affected towers to check on our equipment manually.

Since mid-December 2017 we’ve built and connected 20 new base stations under the Mobile Black Spot program, providing new or improved coverage for those living or travelling around the following locations:

Victoria New South Wales Queensland WA NT, SA, Tas

· Ancona

· Archerton

· Bethanga


· Paterson

· Old Wagga Road Sth


· Mena Creek

· Belli Park

· Maleny-Kenilworth Road (Conondale to Kenilworth)

· Goomburra

· The Summit

· Pomona Kin Kin Road


· Bally Bally

· Manmanning

· Aldersyde

· Darradup

· Bullfinch

· Pantapin

· Wellington Mill


· Loyetea, TAS

· Pata, SA

From Victoria’s Yarra Valley, to NSW’s Riverina, to remote aboriginal settlements in South Australia, thousands of people are now benefiting from our state-of-the-art 4GX mobile data and 3G services for the first time.

Tech Life: Working as a Regional Rigger

Regional People

Posted on November 21, 2017

3 min read

I’m Ryan Duncis, a Telecommunications Rigger based in regional Queensland.

As a Rigger, I’m normally up a tower or mast working upwards of 100 metres above the ground. I work as part of a team to add new steel work so that our equipment can be safely secured to our infrastructure. Running cabling, attaching dishes – basically anything at height, I’m your man! We also work on the ground to check every lift is setup correctly to ensure safety and that the work occurs as streamlined as possible.

The work I do certainly isn’t for those with a fear of heights. I remember the first climb of 30m above the ground seemed really high at the time, but since then, I’ve been as high as 154m.

When you get past the fear factor, the view from atop of a mobile base station is truly spectacular. With the photos I share with my friends at the summit, my friends are pretty jealous – all taken in a safe way of course. If I ever find myself in an office job in the future, the view will be one of the things I’ll miss the most.

I’m often out in the middle of nowhere with the sun blazing on me, so my days, especially in summer, can get quite hot. But as soon as I start the climb, I usually get a bit of a breeze, and when you’re as high as I get, it’s almost like a fan cooling you down.

The job takes me to some of the most remote locations in the country, where the nearest neighbour is often a cloud. Preparing for a trip is one of the most important parts of the job. The last thing you want is to be half way through a lift with mates on a tower and not have everything you need. The drive back can often be days away.

When you’re working out in regional Australia and people see Telstra vehicles drive in, all they want to know is when the network goes live. Living in our cities, we often take a great network connection for granted. I don’t know how I would live without being so connected. The Mobile Black Spot Program is a game changer for people living in regional Australia. I’m really proud to be able to say that I’m part of a team that builds Infrastructure in some of the country’s most remote communities.

Holy Guacamole, Comboyne Has Coverage!

Regional Network

Posted on November 6, 2017

3 min read

Last week, Telstra notched up our 200th base station under the Mobile Black Spot Program, bringing improved mobile coverage to Comboyne, NSW.

The Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program is one of the largest ever expansions of mobile coverage in regional and remote Australia. But what does this connectivity actually mean for the people who live and work in the 130,000 square kilometres of the country that are now benefitting from new or improved mobile coverage thanks to Telstra’s roll out of the program.

For some people, mobile coverage is about making it easier to stay in contact – letting friends know you’re running late, letting family know you’re on the way home – things most Australian’s take for granted.

For others, like Comboyne avocado farmer Chris Nelson, it’s the ability to use new and innovative agriculture technology to simplify his business, make it safer for his team and produce good, quality fruit.

As the company offering more mobile coverage across the country than anyone else, we know the important role mobile technology plays in helping people stay connected.

The ever-growing Internet of Things (IoT), supported by improved mobile coverage, means more and more farmers and small businesses in regional and rural Australia can run businesses more efficiently. From pest inspections conducted by drones to remote monitoring of livestock from a smart phone, innovative technology is already offering farmers the option to transform the way they work the land.

“Avocados require the combination of the perfect soil and moisture. We have sensors in every irrigation station on the farm so the moisture gets uploaded every time. We can login at every stage and correct the levels. It’s critical for us to have connection to get this balance right,” says Chris Nelson.

“Though it’s hard to see a time where we’ll use drones to pick avocadoes – it’s such a hands-on industry and every avocado is picked carefully by hand. You need to treat avocadoes the way you’d treat your eggs. Avocados bruise easily so dropping them is the worst thing you can do.”

Telstra is building a total of 577 new mobile base stations under round 1 and 2 of the Mobile Black Spot Program, more than double all of our competitors combined, representing $486 million worth of co-investment between Telstra, the Federal and State Governments as well as numerous local councils.

In addition to 577 new mobile base stations, Telstra is continuing to install up to 250 Small Cells to deliver high speed 4G data services in some small country towns where suitable Telstra infrastructure is available.

On average, over the past 10 years approximately 15 per cent of Telstra’s mobile network capital expenditure was made in remote and very remote parts of Australia, where approximately two per cent of the nation’s population lives.

Recognition of our commitment to deliver Australia’s best mobile network


Posted on October 13, 2017

4 min read

The Telstra Mobile Network is known for its extensive coverage and super speeds. It’s the largest mobile network in Australia, covering more than 2.4 million square kilometres and reaching 99.4% of the Australian population, and with our 4GX service Telstra customers have access to one of the world’s fastest mobile networks.

Over the years, numerous mobile network benchmarking surveys have assessed our network performance alongside others in the country to determine Australia’s ‘best’ mobile network or even to compare to other networks globally. Many of these tend to focus on populated metropolitan areas and give little attention to the “mobile” nature of customer usage, which requires service not just where they live but where they travel for work and play as well. In some cases, such surveys also use mobile devices that do not support the highest capabilities of each network tested. Telstra most often wins these surveys, but we don’t believe existing surveys in the industry truly capture the quality, footprint and performance of our network.

Because of this, we made a decision to commission a more comprehensive benchmarking survey that is truly national in scale. Network performance analysts Systemics Group agreed to undertake this survey to provide a fair, independent and fully national view of the coverage and performance of Australia’s mobile networks.

Throughout August and September 2017, Systemics conducted this national benchmark survey of Australia’s three mobile networks – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. They covered a driving distance of over 41,000 kilometres (the equivalent of driving the circumference of the earth!), which is by far the largest mobile survey ever conducted in Australia and one of the largest in the world. They also used the latest device to showcase the best performance of all networks and made over 70,000 calls across the three networks and transferred around 3,000 gigabytes of data.  We engaged them to do work to such an exhaustive level because it is  important to us that our long standing internal network survey metrics remain valid and that we know exactly how our network is performing for all our customers, not just those in cities.

The survey ranked Telstra as the best Australian mobile operator, with Telstra scoring highest nationally overall across the four performance categories of voice, browsing, data speed and video. Telstra received a national score of 59.81, Optus was ranked second with a score of 48.4 and Vodafone achieved the lowest score of 43.89.

In fact, of the 25 mobile networks globally that Systemics has surveyed recently, Telstra is ranked as having the highest score. The report also notes that all three mobile networks in Australia are good quality.

The national result is consistent with Telstra’s own measurements and many other benchmarks showing that Telstra has a clear gap over the two other operators. Our strengths came through clearest on main highways and rural and remote areas, with voice coverage available for more than 99% of the distance driven and 4G data for 90% of the distance driven. This includes thousands of kilometres of these roads not covered by any other operator, translating into 2,150 km more road coverage than Optus and over 5300 km more road coverage than Vodafone on these routes.

We are pleased with this result, as it recognises our commitment to delivering the largest coverage, fastest speeds and the best network across Australia.

But while we welcome this result, we continue to rely on our own network performance testing to continue to maintain our mobile network superiority – and with our investment of more than $1.5 billion into the Networks for the Future program (as part of our incremental investment on networks, digitisation, and customer experience of up to $3 billion), we aim to keep it that way.

Every day we are working to make our mobile service even better. Last month we introduced our most generous data allowances yet and rewarded our customers with 12-month Foxtel Now subscriptions on many of these new plans so they can stream the best entertainment on the go. Early this year we launched the world’s first Gigabit capable network and device with the Nighthawk modem and in August we confirmed that we had extended our 4G coverage to 99 per cent of the Australian population so more of our customers can access a high-speed data service.

We will continue to invest to give our customers the best mobile experience, with Australia’s largest mobile network, great-value plans and extras like AFL and NRL passes included that customers simply won’t find anywhere else.

The full report is available on the Systemics website.

Tags: 4GX, regional,

USO: Crucial for connecting the bush


Posted on September 21, 2017

7 min read

Debunking the myths of the Universal Service Obligation

With our heritage of connecting Australians for more than a century, at Telstra we are acutely aware of the challenges regional and remote communities can face when it comes to accessing telecommunications services.

We have invested billions of dollars building the biggest and most reliable set of networks in Australia.  This means we connect more people in regional and rural Australia than anyone else.

On top of our own investment, Telstra has a contract with the Federal Government to deliver what is called the Universal Service Obligation (USO).  The USO rests on a simple concept – that standard telephone services are reasonably accessible to all people in Australia on an equitable basis, wherever they work or live.

A simple idea, but given Australia is one of the largest, most sparsely populated countries in the world, delivering it is no small task.  We supply services from Byron Bay to Port Hedland, from the top of Cape York to the bottom of Tasmania, no matter the cost.  Our contract with the Government means we receive some funding to help keep all Australians connected.

There are more than 600,000 homes, farms, businesses and indigenous communities in areas around Australia where it is generally not viable, on a commercial basis alone, to deliver telecommunications services.  That is, where the costs of serving customers are likely to be too high for both customers and telcos to do so on a straight commercial basis.

This is where the USO comes in. The funding we receive helps Telstra deliver services to these hard to reach communities, who would otherwise face costs in the tens or hundreds of thousands.

For example, we are currently building out a single service to the remote community of Wattle Hills, which is about 600 kilometres north of Cairns.  This will involve a radio signal being delivered via a 16 metre high antenna supported by solar powered battery back-up, and then running a copper line into the premise.  This project will cost at least $100,000, which will be funded out of the USO along with all of the other services requested around Australia that are not commercially viable to build.

The USO funding does not just support new connections – it also funds maintenance of existing services.  For example, this year we have had to send technicians by helicopter multiple times to the Kimberley in Western Australia to fix services at one of the most remote tourist sites in the world.  Also while trying to connect a new customer in the Plainby area, north of Toowoomba in Queensland, we recently had to repair distribution cable which had been damaged by lightning strikes.  The total cost of the repairs was $70,000, which without the USO would have been a huge burden for this customer to bear.

Common myths about the USO

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the USO.  This is a good thing.  It makes sense to check whether the USO continues to be fit for purpose.  However, there has also been a lot of confusion and some misinformation from Telstra’s competitors about the USO.  We’d like to take this opportunity to bust some of the myths around the USO.

Myth 1 – No one relies on the USO anymore

Around two million landline calls are made every day by people living and working outside of where the NBN fixed network will be available and where services are usually supported by the USO.  In many cases, these voice services are vital connections and in fact the only connections to the rest of the world.  For example, the Indigenous community of Amanbidji in the Northern Territory, 400 kilometres west of Katherine, is served by a combination of radio and copper infrastructure provided under the USO.  Earlier this year, a fire damaged the cable connecting Amanbidji, leaving them completely isolated.  In response, our technicians travelled hundreds of kilometres to set up a temporary solution while we undertook the permanent repairs, all supported by the USO.

Myth 2 – The USO is fully funded by taxpayers

Telstra receives $270 million per year for the USO, and only one third of that money is funded by the Government.  The rest is funded by a levy on telecommunications providers.  In fact, Telstra is by far the largest financial contributor to the cost of delivering the USO. We pay around $140 million each year towards the USO ourselves.  So this means Telstra pays 40% more than the Government towards the USO, three times more than Optus’s contribution and 10 times more than Vodafone.

Myth 3 – Telstra has built its mobile network using USO funds

The USO exists to deliver a standard telephone service to anyone who requests one, not a mobile service. We have built the largest mobile network in Australia using our own funds, not USO funds.  We have invested billions of dollars in Australia’s best mobile network and on average 15% of the investments we make in our mobile network have been directed towards building infrastructure that delivers mobile services to the most remote 2% of Australia’s population.

None of the USO funds are intended for, nor were they used for our wireless network rollout.

Myth 4 – Telstra can do whatever it wants with the USO

The USO is a profound and binding obligation on Telstra – to provide a voice service to everyone in the country upon request, no matter where they live, in accordance with the USO Determination.  This is an immense challenge and carries considerable costs, which is why it is funded by an industry levy and a contribution from Government.  Importantly, our USO exists alongside all the consumer protection measures that exist in the industry, including the Customer Service Guarantee which sets acceptable connection and repair timeframes, and provides for compensation for customers if these timeframes are not met.

Myth 5 – Regional communities don’t value the USO or fixed voice services

Regional communities want the best telecommunications services. As such, these communities and their representative organisations are looking for ways to extend what they receive today, including under the USO.  Critically, this means protecting the services they receive today, not trading them away.  As the National Farmers’ Federation stated in a submission to the Productivity Commission on the USO: A transition to voice over nbn infrastructure means many users currently receiving voice service over copper line, will have their voice service replaced by satellite which is currently unreliable. The most significant concern about such a transition are matters of safety. In emergencies a voice connection can be the matter of life and death. A less urgent, but nonetheless critical issue this also raises is how remote businesses can meet their workplace health and safety obligations. nbn itself has acknowledged that the Sky Muster satellite was not designed to provide a universal voice service.”

Myth 6 – The USO can easily be replaced by the NBN

The USO provides a valuable guarantee that no matter where you live, you can access a standard telephone service. It is also a condition of the USO agreement that a standard telephone service must be made available on request to every premise in Australia within reasonable timeframes.

nbnTM is charged with delivering high-speed broadband to every Australian and building this network is a substantial task. That is why we think the best time to review arrangements is once NBN has completed its rollout.

Once the rollout of the nbn is complete, there will be an opportunity to have a look at the USO and the best way to deliver it.  However, any changes to this policy will be complex and need to be carefully designed to ensure it continues to deliver a voice service for people in regional and remote Australia.

Myth 7 – The USO is limited to regional areas

The USO is a guarantee for all Australians, no matter where they work or live, to a standard telephone service.  This applies to people in urban areas as well as regional areas.  A standard telephone service includes access to local, national and international calls, untimed local calls, 24 hour free access to emergency service numbers, priority assistance for those with a life threatening medical condition and operator and directory assistance.  On top of that, the USO also supports thousands of payphones that we maintain around the country and are still valued by many communities.

Tags: regional,