The phone outages that have crippled communication across Cape York and Torres Strait over the past few years should be nothing but a frustrating memory by the next wet season.
That is the full-signal message being sent by Telstra, which is planning to roll out new optical technology designed to “bunny-hop” problem spots on the network to ensure continuity of service for some of its most remote customers.
The telecommunications giant has come under fire after its most recent network outage in late January 2024 left Cape York and Torres Strait residents and businesses without coverage for about 40 hours, with many unable to even call triple-zero for half that time.
Telstra northern Queensland regional general manager Rachel Cliffe said a post-incident investigation into the circumstances surrounding the outage, and communication about the problem, were ongoing, but a plan was already in place to mitigate future network issues.
“There’s a resilience project underway that will service cape York on the link up to Torres Strait,” Ms Cliffe told Cape York Weekly on 9 February.
“It’s pretty brand new technology that only came out in the second half of last year.
“It will help limit the impact down the line if there’s a problem at one of our sites.”
The technology will allow Telstra to bypass a problem location in the network, meaning customers farther along the line will not be impacted by a single site issue.
Ms Cliffe used the Coen site as an example of how the network upgrade would ensure continuity of service up to Torres Strait when the project was completed by mid-2024.
“With the Coen issue [in January 2024] everywhere north was impacted,” she said.
“What happened in that outage, nothing could go further north than Coen.
“We’re going to be using optical technology to push traffic past a site that’s having an issue, so the impact will be localised.”
“I’ve been calling it bunny-hopping, because it’s bypassing the problem and allowing users beyond that site to have uninterrupted coverage while the site is brought back online.”
Again using the Coen example, Ms Cliffe said the technology boost would mean while customers near the outage would have reduced usability, those along the network up to Torres Strait would likely not even know there was a problem.
Ms Cliffe said Telstra was confident the upgrade would make a major difference in remote telecommunications across Cape York, with work scheduled to be finished “definitely well before the next wet season”.
“It will help us improve the resilience vastly,” she said.
“With this new technology that will have rolled out by mid-year, and definitely well before the next wet season, it will allow us to mitigate major outages.”