Communications Alliance and Energy Networks Australia (ENA) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to improve the way the two sectors collaborate and share knowledge when responding to emergency situations.
Under the MoU, the pair have agreed to improve the safety of communities by mitigating risks caused by telecommunications or power outages during emergencies, as well as the sustainability of telecommunications and power supply services to communities affected by emergencies to support their recovery.
The MoU also sets out that the two sectors will collaborate and coordinate on preparing telecommunications and electricity networks and infrastructure for responding to emergencies at local, regional, and state level.
A report prepared by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in May found that during the peak period of the Black Summer bushfires, most telecommunication outages were due to power failures rather than direct fire damage to communication assets.
The report found that during the period from 19 December 2019 to 31 January 2020, only 3% of tower outages were due to fire damage, and of the 1,390 total facilities that were impacted by the fires outages, only 1% of incidents were a direct result of fire damage.
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Similar findings were disclosed by the company responsible for deploying the National Broadband Network (NBN) across Australia. In June, NBN revealed in response to Senate Estimates Question on Notice that bushfires impacted 1% of all NBN services.
“12% (or 6,367 services) of all services impacted were directly impacted by fire over the duration of the bushfires,” the company said at the time.
“The remaining services were impacted by power outages as a result of the bushfires.”
The federal government has previously announced it would spend AU$37.1 million to improve the resiliency of the nation’s telco infrastructure in the wake of the Black Summer bushfires.
The funds will be allocated towards upgrading battery backup power at mobile base stations; purchasing portable temporary connectivity, such as cells on wheels, mobile exchanges on wheels, and NBN Sky Muster trucks; installing 2,000 NBN satellite services at rural and country fire service depots and designated evacuation centres; and on an information program over the next two bushfire seasons to promote “practical information and advice for communities and businesses about how to keep connected during emergencies”.