Australia ponders fire-proof networks
Australia’s massive bushfires are taking their toll on telecom infrastructure, setting off debates about how to build networks for a fire-prone future.
The fires, which have so far burnt out 17 million hectares (42 million acres), have taken out dozens of mobile masts and other equipment, cutting off communities and hampering rescue and fire-fighting efforts.
At the fires’ peak on January 4-5, more than 100 basestations in the three bushfire-affected states were out of action, according to communications minister Paul Fletcher. A week later, 30 had still not been restored.
Telcos have deployed interim services through “cell on wheels” units or satellite. Telstra is offering residents free WiFi via WiFi-enabled payphones.
In a blog this week, Fletcher, a former Optus executive, says the biggest cause of outages had been the loss of mains power supply rather than the destruction of the equipment. Most had backup power sources but these lasted only a limited time.
But he said the physical resilience of future networks had become a big issue for operators.
The country’s second-largest operator, Optus, said that of the 17 basestations out of action in early January, seven had been damaged by fire and would require a full or partial rebuild. Vodafone said it had lost 19 basestations, of which six had been restored by January 9. Telstra declined to issue details.
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