In March 2013, I published the details into my investigation of the fire at the Warrnambool exchange. For almost six months my professional and personal life was consumed trying to determine not only the cause of the fire but also what we could learn from this experience.

My report made a number of recommendations to protect our customer’s services and our network as well as minimise the chance of such an event ever happening again. I also looked at measures to help us recover more quickly should a similar exchange ever be damaged to the same extent.

Of all the things that we have learned since the fire, one of the biggest surprises actually came after we had restored the Warrnambool Exchange to full working order. In the months following the restoration we noticed a significant drop in the consumption of power at the site which was something that we had not been expecting.

While we were able to consolidate our equipment into fewer rooms leading to a reduction in our requirements for air conditioning, it was the removal of the obsolete and redundant equipment from our network that made the biggest difference.

As a result of this revelation, a number of projects have sprung up across the company as we completely re-think how we power-down redundant equipment.

Not only is our power consumption being reduced, but by removing unnecessary equipment we are also minimising the risk of electrical faults and fires. The equipment is left in situ for spare parts which improves the availability and accessibility to spare parts in our exchanges.

We also reviewed our fleet of Mobile Exchange on Wheels (MEoWs) and Cells on Wheels (CoWs) which has led to adding two new units to the fleet. A State Mobilenet Radio Cell on Wheels (SMR COW) and, what we are affectionately calling, a ’Big Cat’ MEoW.

Improvements implimented at the Warrnambool Exchange
Pictured above: The re-built Warrnambool Exchange. Bottom: The Big Cat MEoW and the SMRCoW under construction.

The Big Cat MEoW will be the largest MEoW in Telstra’s fleet. It will be able to provide 2000 PSTN lines, 768 ADSL2 lines and three sectors of 3G850/LTE1800 mobile coverage and include room for further technology expansion. Both units are expected to be completed and ready to deploy by 30 June 2014.

With a number of other recommendations now incorporated into Telstra’s normal business processes, I’m pleased to say that we have already completed approximately half of my recommendations and we are well on track to complete the remainder. A summary of our progress is available on the About Telstra website.

While we would have preferred the fire at Warrnambool not to have occurred, the lessons we’ve learned will stand us in good stead for the future.