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Going for gold with our 600th Mobile Black Spot site in Walhalla

Regional Network

Posted on July 16, 2019

3 min read

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.

A Mobile Black Spot milestone for Wantabadgery

Regional

Posted on June 19, 2019

3 min read

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.

Transforming the life of sheds – and the local community

Technology For Kids

Posted on May 30, 2019

5 min read

In North West Tasmania, a unique music event held in farm sheds is enabling young disadvantaged teens to learn life skills along with new digital abilities.

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.”

You can listen to Trinity’s story here.

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

Our ongoing investment in regional and rural Australia

Regional

Posted on March 13, 2019

1 min read

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.

We’ve launched our first 5G customer connection

Network 5G

Posted on December 11, 2018

4 min read


In another milestone on our 5G roadmap, we’ve connected a customer with a commercial 5G device on our 5G technology for the first time.

Our first customer using a 5G device is FKG Group in Toowoomba, a commercial construction and civil engineering company that has divisions specialising in technology innovation including data centres.

FKG will use the first iteration of the HTC 5G Hub mobile broadband hotspot to test the device’s connectivity to our mobile network that we have enabled 5G on in parts of the area.

Toowoomba is a regional centre with a major local industry centred around agriculture, contributing to its position as one of the fastest growing cities in Australia. The over 4,000 farms in the area are part of an agriculture sector producing $4 billion in annual value, and all can benefit from the improved connectivity and transformative technologies that 5G will bring.

Earlier this year, we announced a partnership with the National Farmers Federation to power the future of farmers around Australia, including through the opportunities enabled by 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). The agriculture industry already uses IoT to track herds of livestock and monitor crops across vast areas, and 5G will make it possible to massively scale up these efforts to improve water usage and reduce waste using smart sensors on our mobile network.

Our early testing with FKG will focus on their experience as a customer, with extensive familiarisation and testing of the device’s features and connectivity. We’ll also be demonstrating the real world improvements to our 4G service that come along with our 5G site upgrades, delivering faster speeds and more capacity across our network.

We’re committed to getting 5G devices into our customers’ hands as early as possible – part of our mission to lead on 5G, and to test in real world environments across the country. We are similarly committed to rolling out 5G across both metropolitan and regional areas, bringing the latest technology to our customers in the bush as well as in Australia’s capital cities.

While Telstra’s network is 5G ready in parts of Toowoomba, the user experience benefits of 5G are not expected to become available until the first half of 2019.

Our 5G upgrades also give a boost to 4G technology, allowing for faster speeds for customers with existing 4G devices.

As the first wave of 5G devices become available at scale, we will offer them to customers. We expect this will happen in the first half of 2019, but this limited launch now is a vital step in validating our network and processes to accommodate the new technology.

In the last 12 months, we have pioneered in 5G with a string of Australian and world firsts including the first 5G call, the first 5G to 5G video call, the first live 5G connection with a commercial chipset and a string of 5G mobile base station upgrades across both cities and regional areas.

Grant Statton, CEO of FKG’s Digital Innovation and Energy Division, is looking forward to the potential that the new technology enables. “It’s fantastic working with Telstra and having the opportunity to test one of the first 5G devices in the country. Being at the forefront of this advanced technology will greatly assist FKG and its newly developed Aatlis Innovation Precinct to explore IoT use cases and pilot innovative solutions in the agriculture and food value chain.”

We have been switching on 5G and upgrading mobile base station sites around the country since August of this year, making our mobile network the first in the country to be 5G ready. Toowoomba was the first regional centre to be upgraded, and now has 22 5G-enabled sites in the area where FKG is located.

Around the country, we have enabled 130 sites with 5G technology, and are on track to deliver 200 sites before the end of the year that are 5G ready and that also deliver world leading 4G speeds on Australia’s largest and fastest* mobile network.

* All references to Australia’s fastest network are based on national average combined 3G/4G mobile speeds.

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