New equipment to strengthen Wide Bay telecommunications during natural disasters

Communities in and around Gympie and Maryborough will be made safer during a natural disaster with new telecommunications upgrades announced today.

The Liberal and Nationals Government is strengthening the resilience of mobile networks in the Wide Bay region against floods, bushfires and other natural disasters, with new portable generators to power mobile base stations during electricity outages.

Optus, Telstra and TPG Telecom will deliver 544 mobile network resilience upgrades across the country through Round 2 of the Mobile Network Hardening Program (MNHP) , including projects worth $51,964 in Gympie and Maryborough.

Federal Member for Wide Bay and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Llew O’Brien said access to reliable telecommunications was critical during natural disasters, particularly for people in outlying communities that may become cut off by floods or bushfires.

“This funding will provide Gympie and Maryborough each with a portable generator set up on a trailer that can be deployed quickly to anywhere within a 150km radius, so they can be used to restore mobile phone services in any community within that distance that has suffered damage or power outages,” Mr O’Brien said.

“These generators provide a minimum of 24 hours additional power to support a mobile base station before they have to be refuelled, and Maryborough and Gympie will also each receive a further two 3.2kVA portable generators to support backhaul sites, strengthening the network further.

“As we have experienced twice already this year in Wide Bay, devastating floods like the ones we have just seen can knock out telecommunications for a significant time, and this equipment will provide critical support to strengthen the mobile phone network and keep people connected so they can contact loved ones and emergency services.” 

“Having access to up-to-date information can genuinely save lives, particularly during severe floods like those we have just experienced, or a fast moving event like a bushfire, where conditions can change dramatically.”

Minister for Regional Communications and Minister for Emergency Management and National Recovery and Resilience, Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, said the Liberals and Nationals Government was committed to keeping communities safe such as those in the Wide Bay  region during a natural disaster.

“This strong outcome from Stage 2 of the MNHP demonstrates our Government’s ongoing commitment to improving mobile network resilience and preparedness so communities can better deal with future emergencies and natural disasters,” Minister McKenzie said.

“Successful projects we’ve announced nationally include the installation of permanent power generators, increased battery reserves, transmission resiliency upgrades to protect against network transmission outages and site hardening measures such as protective ember screening to protect sites from potential impacts of embers, radiation or flames. 

“Mobile phones are increasingly important for people in regional and remote communities to stay in contact with friends and loved ones and to access critical supports both during and after natural disasters such as bushfires and floods.

“While these upgrades will provide a significant boost locally, it’s also important to remind people of the need to prepare for emergencies and natural disasters which can occur at any time. I would encourage people in Wide Bay  to ensure they are prepared, including having plans in the event of power and other service outages.”

The MNHP is part of the Strengthening Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters (STAND) package introduced in May 2020 to help prevent, mitigate and manage outages during bushfires and other natural disasters. 

Under Stage 1 of the MNHP, Telstra, Optus and TPG Telecom were awarded funding to upgrade the auxiliary backup power supply at 467 sites funded under Rounds 1 and 2 of the Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program (MBSP).

Funding under Stage 2 was awarded through a competitive grants process.

The projects are jointly funded by the Australian Government and Telstra. 

Further information on the MNHP and STAND, including a list of sites to receive upgrades, is available on the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications website at www.infrastructure.gov.au/media-technology-communications/phone/communications-emergencies/strengthen-resilience