Telcos battling flood devastation, 262 Telstra exchanges ‘no go’ areas for staff

13 Jan 2011

Telecoms network operators in Queensland have reported extensive damage and outages to exchanges in the flood-ravaged region, with more havoc to follow, reports local newspaper The Age. Tens of thousands of people are without mobile, landline or internet access, despite the telcos’ best efforts. A Telstra spokeswoman said: ‘We have a lot of damaged infrastructure but more importantly our biggest issue is access to power … Power goes down or is turned off by the energy suppliers to control and limit damage.’ Batteries are powering a number of exchanges but technicians are struggling to replace them as they cannot access the sites. Telstra listed 262 exchange areas as being ‘red zones’ meaning no-go areas for its staff, with a further 199 exchanges declared as ‘amber zones’, meaning work is able to progress only in certain parts. The spokeswoman said most red zones corresponded to areas where the population had been evacuated already, so the telco would focus on the amber zones. She added, ‘We do expect to see a significant increase in the number of people impacted but as time goes on water recedes and we get access to sites and we’re getting them back up.’

An anonymous Vodafone Australia employee quoted by the same report claimed the cellco’s sites were ‘going down hour by hour’ with ‘over 200 sites’ affected but the figure was disputed by an official from Vodafone stating that there had been a ‘temporary loss of 2G voice services at eleven base stations in some Brisbane suburbs’. Rival Optus released an update saying that, due to power outages, services were impacted to varying levels in five main areas: South Brisbane and CBD, Lockyer Valley, Ipswich and Kilcoy. Meanwhile, most data centres hosting web pages in Queensland, with the exception of AAPT, have remained online.