Regional |

More boots on the ground in regional Australia, and more support for customers

By Loretta Willaton April 5, 2022

We’re ramping up our support for customers in regional and outer metro areas through our new Connected Communities program. This means more on-the-ground advocates and network experts to help solve complex local issues.

Every regional, rural and remote community in Australia is unique, and we understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach – whatever our customers’ needs are, we are committed to meeting them.

Creating customer advocates across regional Australia

To this end, we will double the number of locally-based Regional Engagement Managers and triple the number of Regional Network Advisors we employ around the country. These members of the Telstra team will work closely with the communities they are embedded in, acting as advocates within our business for the customers they support.

Our network advisors will be equipped with the latest digital tools that support all the technologies our network uses, helping them diagnose and understand connectivity issues at a local level. They will work with their communities to improve customers’ experiences – providing information about network coverage and performance, management of any planned and unplanned outages, and building digital literacy and capability.

We’ll triple our annual investment in community engagement activities like field days and fetes and our support for organisations like local chambers of commerce and business or volunteer groups.

For the first time, we’ll also appoint a Remote Community Advocate responsible for monitoring the performance of our network in Australia’s remote communities each day, keeping those communities up to date with any outages and recovery times, and working to respond to their needs. They’ll also join a new Telstra Customer Advocate Council alongside our Chief Customer Advocate, Chief First Nations Advocate and Chief Regional Advocate, with the council reporting directly to the CEO.

Ramping up our support for regional communities

There’s a lot more we’re doing for regional Australia through our Connected Communities program. We’ll triple our annual investment in community engagement, supporting organisations like local chambers of commerce and local network groups. We’ll also collaborate with NBN local to address digital inclusion and partner on emergency response, with a focus on preparedness.

This comes on top of other recent steps we’ve taken, including bringing customer service voice calls back home by the end of June this year and bringing all local retail stores back under Telstra ownership to give customers a better in-store experience. We’re also training more customer service agents specifically on regional connectivity so they can assist our customers that are located more than 100km from a Telstra store.

We’re continuing to invest in growing and maintaining our regional network. Over the five years to June 2021, we’ve invested $3 billion in mobile and $1.3 billion in fixed networks across regional Australia. We’ve also committed $200 million for co-investments with government to improve regional connectivity. And we’re expanding 4G and 5G coverage by 100,000km2 by June 2025.

We know that there’s a growing need for connectivity all across the country, and that this need will just keep growing. We’re working to build this infrastructure and provide the support that enables all Australians can keep pace with the evolving digital economy – no matter where they live and work.

Devices | Regional |

What does Blue Tick mean?

By Campbell Simpson January 21, 2022

Telstra’s 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.

It came about in 2007, when we shut down our CDMA network. We wanted to make sure we could recommend the right handsets to our customers in regional and rural areas. The new “NextG” network operated in a different way, and as a result, we needed to know which phones were best.

Since then, we’ve tested hundreds of devices for their performance on the 3G 850MHz and 4G 700MHz bands to determine their voice call performance

The best performers are awarded a Blue Tick.

How does a device receive a Telstra Blue Tick?

When Blue Tick first started, a crack team of Telstra technicians and engineers went bush with a range of devices to test exactly how they performed. While they were out there, they discovered a testing regimen that is still used today.

A Blue Tick comes down to how a phone performs on a voice call when you’re holding it in your hand to your ear. It’s the most common way we use a phone to make a call. For that reason, we used the same bloke’s hand to test the performance of a phone for a period of over a decade.

We now have more staffers whose hands are used for signal benchmarking. These hands work hard to run phones through a range of coverage tests to ensure you get the best coverage possible.

And now that we’ve been at this for a while, device manufacturers are working with our technicians to figure out how to maximise their coverage on networks like ours.

So if you’re on the farm, out in the sticks or just want to make sure you have the best opportunity for coverage you can get, look for the Blue Tick from Telstra.

Our Blue Tick Handsets

It doesn’t matter if you’re after a device on a budget or want the latest flagship device, you’ll find Blue Tick devices right across the board – including the Telstra Tough Max 3, Samsung Galaxy A53 5G, and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.

There are heaps more in our range which you can find on our mobile devices page, just look out for the Blue Tick!

Regional |

We’re putting another $75m towards boosting regional coverage

By Nikos Katinakis July 23, 2021

We’re directing an additional $75 million from the part sale of our Telstra InfraCo Towers business to further enhance connectivity in regional Australia.

This builds on recent funding announcements to improve connectivity in regional and rural areas. We have earmarked $150 million for regional infrastructure over the next 12 months, and committed a further $200 million to encourage co-investment with governments and businesses to improve connectivity in regional Australia over the next four years. We are also co-funding new mobile towers and improved high-speed broadband services across 72 communities that need it the most as part of the Federal Government’s Regional Connectivity Program.

When it comes to allocating and rolling out this additional $75 million, we’ll be guided by the recommendations of the latest Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee (RTIRC) from the Federal Government. As the Committee meets with regional communities and stakeholders, we will listen to what they have to say to better understand what we can do to improve connectivity and service in the bush, just as we did during the committee’s 2018 review.

These investments will improve coverage and capacity for our customers living and working in regional Australia. They also come at a time when communities across the country are looking to participate in, and benefit from, the accelerating digital economy. Many of our largest sectors have their roots in regional Australia – agriculture, mining, transport and tourism – and their sustainable futures will rely on enhanced connectivity.

Investment in regional Australia means rolling out the latest technologies and future-proofing our existing leading network coverage. Our 5G network now reaches 75% of Australians, and in the last six months we have switched on 5G coverage for more than 100 regional towns and cities. As we roll out 5G, we know that our regional customers want to know how to best use the network and so we are committed to answering your regional mobile coverage questions.

At the same time, we have been working hard to improve fixed connectivity in critical locations, like rolling out major upgrades in 525 regional exchanges in NSW that have already delivered internet speeds up to 10 times faster for some public schools. These exchange upgrades have already bolstered the capacity available to our regional customers and this additional investment means more improvements are on the way.

We know that for many of our customers in regional areas Telstra is more than just another telco – it is often the only telco. We take that responsibility seriously. Our teams are on the ground working tirelessly to ensure our customers are connected, faults are fixed and issues are addressed quickly. But we know the job is far from done.

We look forward to working with local communities and RTIRC to understand what more we – and other telcos – can do to improve connectivity and service in the bush so all Australians can participate fully in the digital economy.

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.

Telstra 5G network at 50 per cent
Network |

Why spectrum matters for regional connectivity

By Lyndall Stoyles July 14, 2021

Later this year the Government will auction off 20-year licences for ‘low band’ mobile spectrum and its currently considering how much spectrum each mobile provider can buy.

Spectrum is what carries the calls and data between mobile towers and your phone – the more spectrum we can access, the more data that can be carried to your devices. There are different frequencies of spectrum, with ‘low band’ being essential for carrying mobile data over the vast distances needed across regional and rural areas.

What’s happening

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has recommended the Government limit the amount of low band spectrum we can bid for in the auction, which would leave us with less than what we have today in regional areas.

This is a major policy decision that will dictate the economic and social outcomes for the bush for a generation.

Without access to the right amount of mobile spectrum, customers in regional towns will likely experience congestion and slower mobile speeds, and a delay to the rollout of 5G. This will create a two-tier digital economy that will impact education, health and business outcomes, particularly in rural and remote areas.

We’re not asking for more spectrum than we need, and we’re not asking to limit what Optus or TPG could bid for in any way. And we’re also not asking for spectrum to be set aside for our exclusive use like our competitors have.

What it means for you

We’re absolutely committed to the people, communities and businesses in regional Australia and we’ve invested billions of dollars to extend and enhance our mobile network to the far reaches of our country. Because of this our mobile network now covers one million square kilometres more than any other telco. And in many cases we’re the only game in town when it comes to 5G.

We want to keep extending our network and bring the latest technology to regional Australia, but this will be difficult to do if we don’t have the spectrum available to us.

A report by global economic consulting company, Compass Lexecon, found limiting Telstra’s spectrum will lead to worse outcomes for regional Australia, including service degradation and potentially higher prices to fund the extra infrastructure we need to make up for the lack of sufficient spectrum.

This doesn’t have to be the case. We’re not asking for other mobile providers to be restricted in any way – we’re just seeking to maintain a proportion of low band spectrum that’s similar to what we have today.

We’re pleased the Government is currently considering alternative spectrum limits and will soon make their decision on this.

We don’t want to alarm you, but we think it’s only fair that you’re aware of any decision that may impact your connectivity. We want to support regional Australia but we need the Government’s support to do this.