The Morrison Government is working with telcos to bolster the resilience of communications networks serving communities threatened by bushfire.
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP has today announced grants to four major telcos for temporary, portable communications facilities that will be rapidly deployed to communities and evacuation centres. During the 2019-20 bushfires, similar facilities provided critical connectivity during network outages.
In May 2020, Minister Fletcher announced a $37.1 million Strengthening Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters (STAND) package. Of this, $8.3 million was allocated to run a competitive grants process to purchase portable communications facilities which can be positioned in bushfire affected areas to allow communications services to be restored quickly.
Today the Minister announced the successful applicants for these grants are NBN Co, TPG Telecom, Telstra and Optus, who are now in negotiations with the Government to fund temporary telecommunications facilities and equipment, such as cells on wheels (COWs) and Satellite powered COWs (known as SatCOWs or sometimes SatCATs). The telcos will contribute 50 per cent of the capital costs of the facilities, doubling the capital funding available to deploy more and better facilities. Further announcements will be made as negotiations are concluded.
In addition to these grants, NBN Co has been allocated $1.7 million to purchase five newly designed NBN Road Muster trucks and 12 portable satellite kits, to be delivered before the end of this year, bringing the total investment in portable communications facilities to $10 million.
“These grants will enhance the capability of telcos to maintain mobile and broadband coverage in areas impacted during natural disasters, allowing Australians to contact family and essential services, and making sure food, water and fuel purchases can occur,” Minister Fletcher said. “Access to reliable communications before, during and after a natural disaster is critical to the safety of all Australians.”