Home & Office

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

Site inaccessibility and lack of power means those in flood-affected areas are without connectivity even if they are dry.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Dan Peled/Getty Images

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.


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.

In updated numbers for Saturday, the company had 32 sites down in Queensland, and 19 down in New South Wales. Of the 17 sites it had restored since Friday, 3 were in Ballina.

By Sunday, the telco still had 32 sites down in Queensland, and New South Wales was up to 21. Optus said it had restored 4 sites but lost 6 due to overnight storms. 48 of the 53 sites down are standalone.

On Wednesday it said there were 25 sites down in Queensland and 8 down in NSW, with 5 sites on generators. Optus added the satcat was removed from Lismore, with the one running in Nimbin to be decommissioned on Wednesday evening, and half of its affected Queensland sites were dependent on a third party getting services restored.

Optus said on Thursday it had brought 335 sites back online since the flooding occurred, and currently had 22 sites down in Queensland with 4 on generators, and 4 sites down in NSW.


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."

On Friday evening, the telco said it had 84 sites "affected", as some where still providing coverage while other were offline, a reduction from the 135 on Thursday. It also said it had restored LTE and 5G coverage in Ballina and Lismore.

By Sunday afternoon, Telstra said it had 80% of base stations back up, and 75% of landlines excluding NBN services were also restored. From a peak of 250 sites, it now had 26 mobile sites down in NSW, and 27 in Queensland, with 9,625 phone and ADSL lines down.

"Many areas are however still inaccessible due to flood waters and road infrastructure damage or are without power and we need both to assess whether there has been any damage to our network. Unfortunately, we have found significant damage to some of our network, which will take time to fix," the telco said.

On Monday morning, Telstra said it had over 1,100 technicians and staff on the ground, and 28 towers down in NSW, and 22 down in Queensland, with just over 8,000 landlines impacted.

Telstra said on Thursday it had 10 sites down in Queensland, 9 in northern NSW, and 12 in north western Sydney. As a consequence of rains, the number of landlines impacted had risen from 6,554 on Wednesday to 7,925 on Thursday. 

By March 12, the telco said it had 4 sites in NSW down, 9 in Queensland, and 5 in north west Sydney. The number of landlines down was 6922. It added that there were no communities that were isolated.


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". 

"Sites for the installations are nominated by state and territory governments," a spokesperson told ZDNet.

"To date there have been 504 services installed and active nationwide. This includes a service Casino Fire Control Centre in Northern NSW, which is currently impacted by floodwaters. The service is operational. 

"We also have services installed at Coffs Harbour, Wauchope, and Kempsey."

NBN further said it has a Sky Muster truck at Ballina Coast High School, which is providing connectivity to an evacuation centre, as well as deploying five hybrid power cubes to power fixed wireless towers, and eight generators.

The company added it has been made aware that scammers are impersonating NBN and asking for money to speed up service restoration. 

"It is unthinkable that scammers would use this as an opportunity to target people and communities," NBN said.

"Please be aware NBN will never contact customers asking for payment or any other financial information and we urge anyone who receives one of these calls to report it to Scamwatch immediately."

On Monday afternoon, NBN said there were around 9,200 premises impacted in northern NSW, and it had set up satellite-based Wi-Fi hotspots at Alstonville Leisure and Entertainment Centre, the Ballina Sport and Recreation Centre, Nimbin Town Hall, and the Coraki Uniting Church.

In Queensland, the company has 11,840 premises unable to connect.

"The majority of the impacts as a result of extensive damage to NBN infrastructure remain around the Gympie, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Greater Brisbane (in particular western suburbs such as Indooroopilly, Yeerongpilly and St Lucia)," the company said on Twitter.

"These faults are often caused by damage to individual properties from water and require a visit from a NBN technician. We are experiencing increase demand for callouts and materials and there may be some delay as we work through those."

By Tuesday afternoon, the number in NSW had fallen to 5,800 premises -- mainly around Ballina, Murwillimbah, Coraki, Lismore, and Woodburn -- and in Queensland it had dropped to 10,186 premises.

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.

Last updated at 10:12am AEDT, 12 March 2022: Additional numbers from Telstra and Optus.

Related Coverage

Editorial standards