Bushfires, floods wreak telco havoc

Telcos have told stories today of bushfires crisping communications in Victoria while floods damage infrastructure in Queensland.

Telcos have told stories today of bushfires crisping communications in Victoria while floods damage infrastructure in Queensland.

(Credit: Bushfire sky, by jemsweb, CC2.0 )

"The bushfires and the floods will require a massive multi-million dollar Telstra recovery effort to rebuild our networks," Trujillo said in a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia in Perth today. He believed the bill could run into the tens of millions.

The labour cost of the almost 200 people working in the two states alone tallies up to $2 million, the chief executive said.

The Victorian bushfires have seen Telstra's 18 base stations go down and contact lost to five exchanges, according to Trujillo. Thousands of PSTN and ADSL links were down, he continued, but said that the full extent of the damage would not be known until the fire areas could be accessed.

In addition, he believed there was more buried infrastructure that would be damaged or go faulty in the coming months.

Telstra Country Wide executive director Grant Wiltshire told ZDNet.com.au that Telstra wasn't able to move in and fix a lot of the equipment in Victoria because the areas were as yet unsafe.

Telstra teams had, however, been in with a "wet guide" (a fire engine) and fixed the base station at Kinglake this morning by 4:00am.

Optus had also watched its infrastructure go up in flames. A spokesperson said that despite restoring a number of mobile sites, the telco still had 16 damaged by flames or inoperable due to power outages in the Kinglake, Marysville to Alexandria and Gippsland areas.

Like Telstra, Optus did not yet know the full extent of the damages. Both have been using "cells on wheels" to provide mobile service to areas.

Telstra is providing free call diversion, fixed line rates for mobiles and free reconnections to victims. Optus is offering customers who have lost property "zero billing" for up to three months effective immediately. The telco was also offering free handsets to customers who had services disrupted.

A Vodafone spokesperson said that it too would have work ahead of it to repair damage.

"The bushfires have wreaked some havoc," the spokesperson said, with 19 base stations currently affected.

None of 3's base stations which it shared with Telstra had been affected, a spokesperson for the mobile carrier said, although 3 customers roaming on Telstra's 2G network would be affected in areas where base stations had been damaged.