Telco industry roundtable on COVID-19

The Morrison Government today convened a virtual roundtable with representatives from Australia’s major telecommunications companies to discuss COVID-19 preparations, planning and continuity measures in place to support telecommunications services.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, spoke with representatives from all major network operators at the roundtable, including senior executives of NBN Co, Optus, Telstra, Vodafone, TPG and Vocus.

“Our telcos are quickly responding to the evolving challenges of COVID-19 and have in place business continuity plans to continue to deliver vital telecommunications services,” Minister Fletcher said.

Minister Fletcher was pleased by the very strong positive response received from industry participants to his request that the telecommunications sector work collaboratively to support Australians in changing patterns of working and living over this next period to minimise the public health risk posed by the COVID-19 virus.

The Minister commended the industry for their work on business continuity and supporting their staff and customers. The roundtable agreed to establish a special working group comprised of the major telcos, and led by NBN Co, to share relevant information and discuss emerging engineering, security or operational issues in relation to COVID-19.

The roundtable also agreed there is a requirement for protocols to guide interactions that technicians have with customers who are self-isolating, including guidance on personal protective equipment. The Government will engage with the telecommunications sector to provide clarity. 

Major companies across the telecommunications sector are planning for changes in data usage and traffic resulting from people working or studying from home. NBN Co is optimising its network with expectations that day-time network traffic will rise significantly - drawing on international experience, for example in Italy, which has reported a 26 per cent increase in fixed line peak hour network traffic as more people work from home. NBN Co has experience in managing periods of exceptionally high traffic, particularly during school holidays.

“NBN Co and other industry participants are expecting a change in traffic patterns, with higher traffic levels during the day and increased activity in the suburbs as compared to business districts. All of these factors are being taken into consideration with retail service providers in provisioning the network,” Minister Fletcher said.

“The National Broadband Network rollout is 94 per cent complete, and from this week is expected to surpass 11 million homes and businesses able to connect, providing Australians across the country with high speed, reliable broadband.

“Today’s roundtable revealed thorough preparation across the telecommunications industry. The Government will continue to engage closely with the telecommunications sector as circumstances evolve.”

Media contact:

Brad Hatch | 0448 162 679 | Brad.Hatch@communications.gov.au

Rebecca Papillo | 0439 892 771 | Rebecca.Papillo@communications.gov.au

Background:

Tips for working from home:

  • Talk to your retail service provider about how your broadband needs may change, including a greater reliance on upload speeds, and what the appropriate plan is to meet those needs.
  • Make sure your workspace has good Wi-Fi connectivity. Do an online speed test in your work area and then another test next to your modem or with your laptop connected directly to your modem. A significant difference in speeds may mean your workspace is not getting a good Wi-Fi signal. If you are concerned about your Wi-Fi coverage or the performance of your modem, seek advice from your internet retailer on possible upgrade options.
  • If you experience trouble connecting to your office from home, try navigating to a third-party site like Google. If you can do this, the problem may be with your company’s systems, not your internet connection. Contact your company’s IT services for assistance.

More advice is available at: www.nbn.com.au/workingfromhome

NBN continuity preparations:

  • NBN Co is seeing the aggregate network traffic following normal patterns, but showing a modest increase of around 6 per cent throughout the day and at peak times.
  • The most useful data sources are NBN Co’s counterparts in countries where more people are working from home. Telecom Italia has been sharing data with NBN Co on what they are observing during the busy hour traffic period, which is an approximate 26 per cent increase. 
  • As the situation develops, NBN Co also expects busy hour traffic to increase significantly and potentially up to 40 per cent, in-line with the experience of other countries.