We want to make sure every Australian has the access they need to thrive in a growing digital world. That’s why we’re working with regional stakeholders to improve connectivity in the Torres Strait Islands.
In partnership with the Queensland State Government, the Torres Strait Regional Authority and the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, we’re delivering high-speed internet access for mobile device users across 14 of the region’s islands by 2021.
Currently, many islands across the Torres Strait have patchy
outdoor coverage, or only have 3G services. This project is a pledge to improve
that by building additional infrastructure at Sue Island, Coconut Island, Stephens Island, Dauan Island, Boigu Island
and Mabuiag Island and 4G coverage at Yam Island, Maer Island and Saibai
This expansion project will not only support essential
services like police, health and education providers, but it will also help
stimulate local business by opening up opportunities for tourism. The Torres
Strait Islands are rich in historic and cultural significance, and the
turquoise water and lush tropical landscape is truly breathtaking. Now it will
be even easier for locals to share these features with the world.
We’re committed to ensuring all Australians have access to world-class connectivity, improving participation in the digital economy. That’s why we’re working on projects such as the Torres Strait Digital Expansion.
Telstra takes its responsibility to bridge the digital divide between the city and remote Australian communities very seriously, which is why we’ve already delivered a number of projects in the Torres Strait to enable customers to access faster fixed line broadband, make mobile calls and access fast wireless data.
We’ll be working hard over the coming months to install our
new infrastructure in the region, so everyone can thrive in the connected
Sri leads investment strategy, technology roadmap, and planning and construction for Telstra's fixed and mobile networks. Sri has worked for Telstra for more than 25 years, predominantly in wireless networks and has helped build and run Telstra’s AMPS, GSM, CDMA, 3G, and LTE networks.
Going for gold with our 600th Mobile Black Spot site in Walhalla
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.
Relocating from Toronto, Nikos Katinakis joined Telstra on 15 October 2018 as Group Executive Networks & IT. In this critical role Nikos is responsible for ensuring Telstra delivers next generation network technologies to create the largest, smartest, safest and most reliable networks in the world. This includes rolling out new technology developments, such as those related to 5G, as well as maintaining and enhancing Telstra’s IT platforms.
Nikos was previously Executive Vice President Networks for Reliance Jio in India where he was responsible for rolling out the first pan-India 4G LTE Network, with a focus on data management, and enhancing and stabilising the various operating platforms. In his second Jio assignment, Nikos led their wireline/fixed consumer business with the objective to launch full commercial services across major cities in India, while fully automating and simplifying workflows and the customer experience. Prior to this, Nikos was SVP of Architecture and Technology Development for Network and IT at Canada’s Rogers Communications, as well as Chief Information Security Officer, where he was responsible for the technology strategy, selection, and roadmap that guided Rogers’ deployment of next generation capabilities across all access networks and services.
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.
I have been working with Telstra for 12 years which has given me the opportunity to experience many diverse and rewarding roles. I started off my Telstra career in 2002 as a Business Sales Consultant and am now the Area General Manager for the North West region.
Coming from regional Australia, I enjoy the lifestyle and culture that Armidale offers and like nothing more than popping down to the local cafe for a coffee and chat.
Transforming the life of sheds – and the local community
In North West Tasmania, a unique music event held in farm
sheds is enabling young disadvantaged teens to learn life skills along with new
There is something quite extraordinary happening in North West Tasmania. A music festival held in farm sheds is equipping young people with confidence, capability and digital tech know-how. In March this year, 35 young women aged 14-16 from Big hART’s Project O initiative, helped produce Acoustic Life of Sheds, which saw over 1200 people enjoy musical performances in farm sheds along the stunning North West Tasmania coast.
The event ran for four days as part of the Ten Days on the Island festival, with 51 performances at five sheds. For these young people, who come from a community which struggles with literacy, employment, family violence, poverty, isolation and school retention, the event built not only a renewed sense of community but also developed self-confidence, agency, leadership and digital skills.
At Acoustic Life of
Sheds, young people were acknowledged
and welcomed by the community, made friends with farm owners, spoke to the
media, joined in with the crew and cast and were an integral part of the event.
They were no longer invisible or on the outer – they were strong, capable and
inspiring; they had a voice and we heard their story.
At the Potato Shed, we stood transfixed as young women
performed percussion with professional vibraphone artist Maggie Abraham, and
listened to a spellbinding audio experience where young people talk about their
favourite local place and what it meant to them. At another shed we saw
teenagers assisting with digital filmmaking, photographing, sound engineering,
stage management and creating posts and video content for social media.
Local entrepreneur and former policewoman Andy Jackman has mentored the young women of Project O through her family business Red Cow Organics, which specialises in organic artisan cheese created with sustainable farming practices. “I grew up in a really stable household”, she said. “Mum and Dad were there, my siblings were there. Normal life was family life. A lot of the girls we’ve worked with, that’s not normal for them.”
Young people from the program assisted Andy at her food
stall at one of the sheds, learning catering and hospitality skills. “The
progress that a lot of these girls have made, it’s amazing”, said Andy. “You
can see the transformation from when they first start the program to when they
graduate in Year 10. I can see the power in that and I love it.”
In the weeks leading up, Project O participants from Wynyard and Smithton learnt digital podcasting, audio craft and storytelling skills with Helene Thomas, of mobile recording studio The Wayfinder, creating immersive audio stories that audiences listened to at Acoustic Life of Sheds.
“As someone who was born and raised on the North West
Coast of Tasmania it was such an honour and privilege to be invited to mentor
young women in the art of audio storytelling. These Year 9 and 10 girls have
profoundly strong voices with powerful messages”, Helene told us.
One young woman Helene worked with was 15-year-old
Trinity from Wynyard. “Trinity took me to her special place, spoke about why
she liked to go there and how it made her feel. She captured sounds of the
water and birdlife so beautifully. It’s heartening to know organisations such
as Big hART are committed to engaging with young rural women to help build
personal agency, skills and employment pathways.”
Over at cattle property Gumhill, where a woodworking shed
has been turned into a performance venue, farm owner Devon Cruickshank also
talked about the community that Acoustic Life of Sheds has created. The young
women linger between shows in her kitchen, lapping up her homemade cakes and
sharing recipes. Unofficially, Devon has also become a mentor and friend of the
young women, someone who will look out for them in the community. “It brings
the community together. The experience for the girls is lovely, to see how warm
everyone can be and support them”.
Northwest Tasmania is an area marked by lower levels of digital inclusion, according to the Australian Digital Inclusion Index. Arming these young women with digital skills is important to foster capability and confidence in an increasingly digital world. But it is more than that, as digital inclusion specialist Robert Morsillo from Telstra says. “Digital inclusion is vital to social inclusion. To have a sense of connectedness is to have a sense of community and hope.”
A few weeks later, nine Project O young women took Acoustic Life of Sheds on the road to the Huon Valley in southern Tasmania, as part of a special community recovery weekend after the intense bushfires that affected the area. The young women took over the Project O Facebook page, posting pics and stories during the weekend. Shania says, “We have had an amazing experience with the whole project and we are so proud of ourselves.”
Project O is an initiative of Big hART and proudly supported by Telstra. For more information visit www.bighart.org
Bettina Richter is the Media and Communications Manager of Big hART, Australia’s leading campaigning arts organisation which has worked for 25 years in disadvantaged communities. Based on the far south coast of NSW, Bettina is responsible for managing all media coverage of Big hART and oversees Big hART’s communications and social media platforms. With a career spanning 20 years specialising in the media and the arts, Bettina began her career at ABC TV, and has gone on to produce documentaries and had her own business for 10 years working with award-winning Indigenous authors, national commentators, independent artists and iconic music festivals. Bettina holds an MA in Writing from UTS, and a BA in Communications from Charles Sturt University Bathurst, and is particularly interested in the role media and digital platforms can play in social impact and giving voice to our most invisible stories.
Our ongoing investment in regional and rural Australia
Over the last five years up to June 2019, our total mobile network investment is around $8 billion of which almost $3 billion is invested in regional areas. We have also built more than 500 new mobile base stations under the Federal Government Mobile Black Spot Program.
The benefits of mobile connectivity are demonstrated through the many positive experiences our customers are having across the country. Whether it is the iconic Pub With No Beer in NSW, Eggs and Bacon Bay in Tasmania, Culla in far Western Victoria, or at Eganstown in the Victorian gold fields region.
In all of these examples, mobile coverage means people and businesses in regional and remote communities can do things many in the city take for granted. Whether it is streaming sports, movies and television, working remotely, or just staying in touch.
We are also embracing new and innovative applications of technology to extend coverage and connectivity.
The cutting edge technology offered by the 4GX-lite Mobile Satellite Small Cell Solution is an example of this. The Telstra Go Mobile and Stationary Repeater, an antenna that extends mobile coverage and allows customers to access coverage in places where it might be unavailable, is another example.
Andy Penn became the CEO and Managing Director of Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, on 1 May 2015. At Telstra Andy is leading an ambitious change program transforming Telstra to be positioned to compete in the radically changing technology world of the future with 5G at its core. Andy has had an extensive career spanning 40 years across 3 different industries - telecommunications, financial services and shipping. He joined Telstra in 2012 as Chief Financial Officer. In 2014 he took on the additional responsibilities as Group Executive International. Prior to Telstra, Andy spent 23 years with AXA Asia Pacific Holdings, part of the AXA Group, one of the world’s largest insurance and investment groups. His time at AXA included the roles of Chief Executive Officer 2006-2011, Chief Financial Officer 2000-2002, Chief Executive Asia and Chief Executive Australia and New Zealand. At AXA, Andy was instrumental in building one of the most successful Asian businesses by an Australian company that was sold to its parent in 2011 for more than A$10bn. Outside of work Andy has a deep passion for the visual arts. He is Patron, on behalf of Telstra, of the National and Torres Straights Islanders Arts Awards (NATSIAA) and he paints in his spare time. Andy is also active in supporting community and social causes. He is Life Governor of Very Special Kids and an Ambassador for the Amy Gillet Foundation. He serves on the advisory boards of both The Big Issue Home for Homes and JDRF. In 2018 he was voted by the Financial Times number 8 in the top 50 male leaders globally in their HEREOS champions of women in leadership report.