MELTED: Telstra network damaged in bushfires

Telstra Countrywide’s Grant Wiltshire told APC that the bushfires had caused substantial damage to the telephone exchange network and Next G base station infrastructure as well as core network cabling.

“We’re still trying to understand the full extent of the damage and that won’t be known until we can get into the restricted areas” he said.

“What I can share with you is that around the Taggerty area Buxton and Marysville the plant infrastructure has been most adversely advected along with Mt Tassie and Mt Kinglake.”

Wiltshire said Telstra technicians had got a ‘wet escort’ from the Country Fire Authority in order to reach a burned-out base station in the Kinglake area. Engineers were able to rebuild the tower by 4am this morning.

“We do also have some temporary mobile services — we call them cells on wheels” Wiltshire said. “We’re deploying some of those around emergency relief centres in the Whittlesea area”

Wiltshire said Telstra could see that part of its network were dead but until hotzones were declared safe by the CFA it couldn’t actually reach the network locations to see whether exchanges had been burned to the ground or whether fibre-optic backbone infrastructure in the ground had been melted by the heat of the fires.

Mobile phone chargers desperately needed

People following the Twitter #bushfires feed this morning would have seen that donations of mobile phone chargers were urgently needed as bushfire survivors’ phones started running flat.

Nokia announced it had donated 300 chargers which would be distributed to emergency relief centres by Telstra Countrywide along with powerboards.

Telstra has also announced a disaster relief package — including free call diversion to a mobile phone mobile phone usage at regular fixed line rates and call credits on accounts. “If customers want to invoke that or enquire there’s a helpline 132203 or we have both technical and customer service staff at the emergency relief centres around Victoria” Wiltshire said.  

Optus and Vodafone were not immediately able to comment on the damage to their networks from the bushfires.