Devices |

Be prepared: how to stay connected during disaster season

By Dr Ben Gursansky September 17, 2020

We live in unprecedented times, there’s no question. But even with COVID-19 front of mind for so many, we still need to stay prepared for a season of natural disasters no matter where we are in the country. Here’s the tech you need in your disaster kit to stay connected.

Did you know?

Disasters impact all of us and being prepared can make things a bit easier. We’ll be running a series of blogs in the coming weeks to help you prepare to stay connected in the event you experience a disaster in your area.

First and foremost, it’s important to have an emergency plan in place before a critical incident arrives on your doorstep. That way you can quickly and efficiently evacuate and get you and your family to safety.

When preparing, ensure you consider the following from our emergency toolkit to keep you online and informed.

Mobile phones and portable devices

Invest in an alternative charger.

If you don’t already have one, purchase a phone charger that isn’t dependent on a power outlet. A popular choice is a ‘power bank’ battery pack that can be charged from a power outlet prior to an event and used if grid electricity is unavailable, or a portable solar panel charger or in-car charger.

Back up your data.

Store your important data, like contact information and personal photos, in the cloud using an online service. If you have an Apple or Google device, these smartphones have automatic backups that you can enable for extra peace of mind.

Know your emergency numbers.

Store a list of essential contact numbers for your local Police, Fire, SES teams as well as friends and family on your phone and as a backup. Make sure you include our fixed line fault service number – 1800 888 888.

When you have your list of essential numbers, make sure you make a printed copy to keep in your wallet, purse or bag, and keep a version in your car as well. Power can go out for a week or longer during a disaster. Keeping a printed copy means that if your phone is out of battery and you need an important phone number, you have it handy at all times.

Consider a satellite phone.

In rural and regional areas, a satellite phone should usually be independent of any damaged infrastructure and can operate in remote locations. If your communications are critical or if you are in an isolated area, a satellite phone backup could come in handy. And if you only have one, make sure it is charged and accessible in the event you do need to use it.

Consider a repeater device

Like any mobile network, coverage on the Telstra Mobile Network depends on where you are, the mobile handset, tablet or mobile broadband device you’re using, and whether an external antenna can be attached. It’s important to understand that different devices have different capabilities.

Legal network coverage extension devices amplify the network signal your mobile device receives, which extends the area that your device can work in. These devices can help you connect to the Telstra Mobile Network from further away than normally possible, or in areas where signal may struggle to penetrate – such as indoors, or in hilly or dense terrain.

It’s important to note that boosters are illegal to own or operate on any network in Australia, and they can disrupt or even prevent others from making calls to emergency 000.

Legal wireless network coverage extension devices, such as the Telstra Mobile Smart Antenna and Telstra Go, are also known as ‘repeaters’ as they repeat the signal from one location to another.

You can see our range of repeaters and extenders on our website.

Fixed line phones

Home phones on the NBN are different.

Since the NBN carries your home phone line, it will be unavailable during a power outage. It’s best to have a mobile phone or satellite phone handy for this instance, especially in remote areas.

Enable Wi-Fi calling.

If cellular network signal is down during a disaster, you can still use your mobile phone to make and receive calls and text messages, provided it supports Wi-Fi Calling. Wi-Fi Calling provides basic voice-calling capability on compatible devices when you’re connected to a supported Wi-Fi network and can’t connect to the Telstra Mobile Network.

We have also switched on SMS over Wi-Fi, allowing you to receive texts via your fixed home network

Read our FAQ of how to set it up on your phone before you need it.

Keep a corded phone.

A cordless fixed line phone is convenient, but remember, most cordless phones rely on electric power to operate, so you may lose the use of your landline during a power outage. A corded phone draws its electricity directly from the phone line (excluding fixed line phones on NBN) and can be used during a power outage.

Keeping In Touch

Set up a virtual meeting place. If you have internet access, an instant messaging group chat with friends and family, or a social media site like Facebook or even Instagram, can give you and your loved ones extra information during a time of crisis.

Establish a calling tree: If mobile services have been impacted, find your local payphone – which is a fixed line service, and is more likely to withstand disaster impacts – and call a key contact who can then call other family and friends to inform them you’re safe.

Evacuation locations: Know where your local evacuation centre and emergency meeting spots are and what different routes you can use to get there as some roads may not be accessible during the disaster.

Download emergency services apps. These official apps will give you the most up-to-date information on what’s happening in your area, including natural disaster warnings.

Be alert. Subscribe to services that will alert you to weather changes, road closures and updates from other service providers in your area.

Use local information sources. Online, social media accounts for your local authorities and emergency services will share crucial information. Your local broadcaster will also share information over the radio – make sure you have a battery-powered radio or car radio to listen in on.

Below we’ve provided a preliminary list of information sources you may want to consider.

Government agencies for emergency response information:

Other critical information websites:

Regional Australia
Regional | Telstra News |

Giving back to our regions

By Dr Ben Gursansky September 10, 2020

Telstra’s executive regularly travels to regional areas to meet with rural and regional customers and stakeholders in their communities to get a firsthand sense of the issues that matter most to them. While this hasn’t been physically possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, it hasn’t stopped us from keeping a strong focus on connecting with and supporting regional Australia.

We care deeply about keeping communities connected, which is why our purpose is to create a connected future where everyone can thrive. It is also why we’re working to help foster digital inclusion and provide support to community organisations. In more recent times that is especially so for those that have been impacted by the various crises experienced right across our country, from bushfires, drought, floods and now COVID-19.

We’ve identified a range of essential services – not-for-profit, and cause-related organisations – that are on the frontline of helping disadvantaged groups and impacted communities, and we’re working closely to help them with various philanthropic endeavours and initiatives. Many of these organisations we already partner with through our business, and this donation is an extension of that support to further enable their important work continuing through technology.

Melbourne Indigenous Transition School

This includes organisations like the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School (MITS), where COVID-19 affected students’ ability to stay connected to the school during the ongoing lockdown.

It was critical that students remained connected with the school and each other during the lockdown. MITS staff had to ensure they were able to continue their academic growth when away from Melbourne, which means a heavy reliance on technology. Technology that isn’t as accessible in remote Indigenous communities.

We helped to keep students connected to their schooling with a donation of mobile broadband devices delivered safely and contactlessly into Indigenous communities to ensure classes could continue remotely. Schoolwork is now completed at a distance via virtual software applications each day. The children are able to connect in real-time and discuss their work via online learning.

SHINE for KIDS

SHINE for KIDS is a national charity supporting children and their families with relatives in the criminal justice system. Being separated from a parent is a traumatic experience, and prisons can be tough on kids visiting their parents or relatives.

SHINE for KIDS is designed to help families maintain relationships while incarcerated, but the effects of COVID-19 mean that physical access to prisons has been limited in 2020.

Our donation has allowed children to stay connected to their families through the pandemic virtually. Parents can now connect with their children via iPads and read books to them to maintain the all-important relationship.

Youth Insearch

Youth Insearch works with at-risk youths aged 14-20 to help them onto the right path for success.

Since 1985, it has worked with youths in the community to reduce crime, violence, drug/alcohol abuse, self-harm and suicide in young people through workshops and community support. It also works to get youths helping youths so each member can positively affect others.

Similarly, COVID-19 meant that in-person workshops were not always possible, but with our donation we’re helping to facilitate these mentor meetings virtually.

We remain committed to supporting regional Australia. As restrictions lift, we are looking forward to getting back out across our beautiful and vast country to hear from our customers, and continue to provide assistance in the future to organisations that are helping to improve the lives for all Australians.

Network | Regional |

Making our 4G coverage go even further

By Paul Milford February 28, 2020

We’re always on a mission to bring best-in-class connectivity to the furthest reaches of our great nation. We believe that connectivity enriches lives, enabling new opportunities to thrive in regional and remote communities. That’s why we’re thrilled to announce a new breakthrough with our technology partner, Ericsson: we’ve deployed world-first technology that can effectively double the range of a 4G mobile base station, increasing it to up to 200km.

Until now, global wireless 4G standards have managed to achieve a range of only 100km from the cell. While that’s still impressive, we’re always looking to push our network capabilities further for our customers. Working with our partner Ericsson, we have deployed a solution that enables standard 4G phones to work at a distance up to 200km from the mobile base station.

We recently completed an extended call using one of our sites at Mount Dowe, east of Narrabri in New South Wales. Further testing and refinement is underway and we expect that it will become commercially available later in 2020 across select locations, further boosting network coverage as demands continue to grow.

This is a big win for our regional and remote customers. We live in a vast nation and providing 4G coverage in more places is critical in ensuring that we are providing the best coverage to our customers both in the city and the country.

This isn’t necessarily a solution for everywhere – the location of the mobile base station and the surrounding topography need to be right for the mobile device signal to get back to the base station  – but this will certainly be another deployment option in our 4G coverage toolkit when we are expanding and improving our network.

We continually work with our partners like Ericsson to provide innovative solutions to our customer needs. This achievement builds on previous mobile world firsts, including when Ericsson and Telstra again achieved another world’s first when we extended the 3G cell range to 200km in February 2007.

To ensure you’re getting the best coverage in regional Australia, check out our guide to getting the right gear for your needs.

Giving Indigenous Australians a visual voice with Indigemoji
Regional |

Giving Indigenous Australians a visual voice with Indigemoji

By Mark Sulikowski December 19, 2019

Emoji help us tell our stories in visual ways, and through our Indigenous digital inclusion efforts, we’re working alongside our First Nation’s people to help tell their stories digitally and visually with the “Indigemoji” project.

Graham Wilfred Junior was born with spina bifida in 1983, and his family was told he would never walk on his own. Shifting between various family members in Arnhem Land and foster homes in Darwin, Graham eventually wound up sleeping on the streets of Katherine. But he had a deep inner strength and the innate artistic abilities of his parents, and these led him – along with a great deal of pain and perseverance – to the doors of inDigiMOB in Alice Springs.

This gentle artist is now the driving force behind a vibrant ‘digital arts hub’ at the Alice Springs Public Library, where a group of inDigiMOB mentors, artists and Arrernte speakers are helping hundreds of young Territorians to hone their digital skills.

InDigiMOB is a pioneering digital inclusion project established by First Nations Media Australia and Telstra, which since 2016 has delivered hands-on training to more than 6,000 people through a series of workshops, mentoring, and culturally appropriate digital tools.

The project is currently preparing to roll out ‘Indigemoji’: Australia’s first series of Aboriginal emojis, in partnership with the Alice Springs Public Library, the NT Government, CAYLUS and Ingeous Studios.

The Indigemoji project was developed as part of digital art workshops with members of the Mparntwe/Alice Springs and other remote Australian Indigenous communities. Over seven weeks of workshops, hundreds of emoji designs were developed.

Caddie Brain, a former ABC journalist who co-founded the Indigemoji project, says the digital storytelling skills developed through the Indigemoji project provide new opportunities for preserving the culture and iconography of remote communities – not to mention their threatened languages.

“Many communities around here have only recently got mobile phone coverage and Internet access, so the uptake of technology is still relatively new,” says Caddie. “The new emoji icons are a response to that, enabling people to communicate in a way that’s culturally relevant to them – one small way of decolonising the Internet.”

The striking series of locally-themed ‘emoji stickers’ will be usable in mobile messaging via a free app developed by the Indigenous design agency, Ingeous Studios. The project has brought together a vibrant community of artists, illustrators, Arrernte linguists and young people – all committed to capturing their culture’s essence in a series of hand signals, facial expressions, plants, animals, and other instantly-recognisable facets of local life.

Ben Smede, inDigiMOB’s project manager, says that Indigemoji is designed to give a visual voice to Indigenous Australians.

“This project is a great way to make these symbols more relevant and inclusive for the rapidly growing numbers of Aboriginal people who are communicating through social media,” Ben says.

“Every emoji has an Arrernte name and description” adds Caddie, “and this connection between new technology and ancient Arrernte culture is at the heart of the Indigemoji project.”

Besides this sense of belonging and cultural identity, there are other benefits for the individuals involved that cannot be measured or captured in a simple turn of phrase, including Graham Wilfred Junior.

“Making these emojis takes me far away from my old depression and nightmares,” says Graham. “When I was a teenager living with this disability, I went through times where I wanted to commit suicide. But coming to this place and working with Caddie has been a life-changing experience.

“People see me out and about on my bicycle, and they say ‘Hey, you’re that artist from the library’. It’s so motivating for me – just feeling that I’m helping these young people to build their future.”

The Indigemoji sticker set will be released later on in 2019 as a free app for all.

This article was originally written for Telstra’s All In Accessibility & Inclusion newsletter by Ralph Johnstone.

5G | Regional | Telstra News |

Bringing regional Australia into the 5G future

By Andrew Penn December 11, 2019

At our annual Investor Day a few weeks ago, we announced Telstra had already brought 5G coverage to 25 cities and towns across Australia. Today I am in Dubbo to announce the switch on of coverage in our 26th.

This is my second trip to Dubbo in 18 months. For many of us Dubbo is a point on a map. If you have never visited before, you might only know it for its famous Western Plains Zoo. If you have visited, it might have been briefly driving between regions. But like all Australian towns, it is so much more than that, with its own local character and history.

Dubbo sits at the centre of a road network that connects our major metro cities. It is built on industries – transport, logistics, agriculture, manufacturing – that will all benefit greatly from our 5G rollout.

In transport and logistics, 5G will mean systems that can be managed and synchronised to the real time movement of vehicles and passengers.

In agriculture, 5G will mean sensors that can gather geographically-precise data in real time to better monitor livestock and crops based on exact and local weather patterns, soil moisture and nutrients.

In manufacturing, 5G and artificial intelligence will mean automation and robotics to perform repetitive tasks and drive new efficiencies and productivity.

And elsewhere, 5G will mean drones that could be used for deliveries, searches, rescues or to provide high quality live video for news or surveillance.

What is relevant in any conversation about 5G though is that there are many uses that have not yet been imagined. That is actually one of the most exciting parts, that time and again we have been surprised by the innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurialism that connectivity and technology enables. It will be the same with 5G.

Through all of this the role of networks remain absolutely central. Telstra is a global leader in the rollout of 5G and we are committed to rolling it out to Australians as fast as possible, with the best technology available to bring people and business together.

It is a major part of our $3.8 billion investment in our mobile network over the three years to June 2020.

Our purpose drives us to ensure a connected future where everyone can thrive. Connectivity like 5G brings with it exciting opportunities for business, health, safety and innovation, and we want to make sure as many people as possible can connect to it.

As the world moves into a new industrial revolution built on connectivity, Dubbo and other regional centres will be early participants, being some of the first on the planet to experience what 5G technology is capable of. Further to this, those with the new 5G capabilities will also get a chance to enjoy an enhanced 4G service alongside it.

We have shown from our ongoing involvement in the Federal Government’s Black Spot Program that we are dedicated to bringing advanced connectivity to the far reaches of Australia.

The next six months will see us bring 5G to selected areas of 35 major and regional cities across Australia.

If you are interested in finding out about where else we are building 5G and to look at the 5G devices we have on offer, you can find more information on our website, or by talking to a team member at your nearest Telstra store.