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What is happening with telecommunications in flood-hit regions of Queensland and NSW

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The eastern seaboard of Australia has entered week two of devastating flooding up and down the coast, with power and telecommunications outages widespread in impacted areas.

The following information from each provider is intended to be as up to date as possible, and will be changed when we know more.

Optus

As of noon on Friday, Optus has 38 sites down in Queensland and 26 mobile sites down in New South Wales. The total number of sites impacted is decreasing, and the telco said 55 of the sites are individual sites. It does have 8 sites on generators.

The company has deployed temporary satellite-powered units (satcat) in Lismore and Ballina, with another on the way to Nimbin. These units have a range of 3 to 4km and given their placement and local topography, it is possible that even though a satcat is nearby, reception may not have improved.

Telstra

The incumbent telco said on Thursday it has technicians on the ground in places where it could gain access.

“Many areas are however still inaccessible due to flood waters or are without power. We are working with power and local authorities to access the affected areas so we can get to work to bring services back online,” the company said.

“We have temporary mobile facilities available that can be used in appropriate situations. Our technicians were able to install a temporary satellite mobile service in Kilkivan, near Gympie in Queensland, to deliver some coverage to the community after one of our cables was washed away.

“Temporary mobile facilities do have the same limitations of requiring power and access to an area in order to be deployed and we carefully and constantly assess where and when they may be able to help.”

NBN

On Friday, the company responsible for the National Broadband Network said it has seen the total number of premises offline rise to 74,000 in northern NSW, while southeast Queensland was trending downward with 33,200 services offline.

“Where possible, we are deploying generators into the region to support connectivity and will continue to work with the emergency authorities to deploy more generators into areas as waters recede,” the company said on Twitter.

Earlier in the week, NBN said 56,000 premises in the NSW Northern Rivers region were offline due to fibre access node (FAN) in Woodburn losing power.

“This site had been running on battery power, however the battery has been exhausted. Due to floodwaters it is not possible to access the site safely,” NBN said.

“The site is owned and operated by a third party and we are working closely with them to restore services as soon as it is safe.”

Those hit by the FAN outage extended as far north as into Queensland, and included Tweed Heads, Kingscliff, Currumbin Valley, Byron Bay, Brunswick Heads, Ballina, Lennox Head, and Evans Head.

NBN said on Thursday it has 14 generators on standby for NSW to be used once waters recede, and generators have been put into Caboolture, Barellan Point, Grantham, Munruben, Milton, and Jimboomba.

“We have a Muster Truck arriving in Skennars Head tomorrow morning from Queensland as this is the only access we have into the community at present,” a spokesperson said on Thursday afternoon.

“We also have Muster Trucks on standby, however access remains limited in many areas.”

The company added it has disaster satellite dishes installed at all places covered under the first round of deployment, which did not include areas in NSW.

When announced, NBN said it would complete the NSW installations during 2021, but the spokesperson said it was continuing to “roll out the second phase of installations”. ZDNet has asked for a list of all centres connected in northern NSW.

TPG Telecom

The company behind Vodafone Australia said it is facing an outage across the flood-hit areas due to power outages, and will deploy temporary power and network facilities where available, and practical. It had also gained funding from the nation’s AU$37 million pot for new cell on wheels that will arrive later this year. 

The company said in any locations where its network is unavailable, calls to Triple Zero will divert onto an alternative network. 

Evacuation centres

For people in NSW that need to evacuate, the NSW SES maintains a list of current evacuation centres.

Queenslanders are informed that they will find out more from local radio and TV, emergency phone warnings, local councils, and even door knocking from emergency services.

Updated at 15:08pm AEDT, 4 March 2022: Additional information from TPG.

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