When devastating bushfires hit Australia over the 2019-2020 summer, our fixed line and mobile phone networks came under great pressure.

fire danger today sign indicating very high

The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Impacts of the 2019-20 Bushfires on the Telecommunications Network April 2020 report has outlined what happened to telecommunications networks during and after the fires, and how the telcos responded.

ACMA has reported that between 19 December 2019 and 31 January 2020, 1,406 telecommunications facilities were impacted by the bushfires, either directly or indirectly. This includes exchanges, mobile phone base stations, equipment shelters, cables and other parts of the networks.

Most of the outage incidents were caused by power outages rather than direct fire damage. Direct fire damage only accounted for 1% of outage incidents.

Of the 1,406 facilities impacted approximately:

  • One quarter of impacted facilities did not experience a communications outage
  • One quarter had outages restored within 4 hours
  • Of the remaining 50% that experienced longer outages, the average time to restore the communications was 3.5 days.

Carriers took temporary action to restore services for more than one-third of outage incidents, and in two-thirds of outage incidents, restoration efforts by the relevant carriers encountered site access restrictions, such as fallen trees.