Better telecommunications services are being called for in the Mid West after a surge in usage has left some business owners struggling to access the internet.

Key points:

  • Farmers and businesses are experiencing poorer mobile services
  • The Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry is taking its concerns to the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review
  • Telstra will soon be upgrading service in part of the Mid West 

Midwest Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MWCCI) chief executive Joanne Fabling said increased tourism meant some business owners were being left with limited mobile services despite full coverage.

“Out in the Morawa region the other day, you’re standing there, and you’ve got a full bar of signal on your phone, but you cannot send any kind of data,” she said.

“We welcome tourists, they’ve been so fantastic for our region … and we want more of that kind of traffic because it’s been really beneficial for our regional towns.

“But our telecommunications are just not holding up.”

A woman with short brown hair wearing a business attire stands in front of an office window, smiling at the camera.

Joanne Fabling says businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on technology to operate.(

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Bridget Herrmann

)

Ms Fabling said it was the available bandwidth, not the number of towers, that was causing a problem.

“There’s no bandwidth left for anybody to send any data,” she said.

For farmers entering their harvest season, this is a major concern.

“You’ll find farmers will be on their harvesters and they’ll be looking to pre-sell their grain early, and if they don’t have the capability to do that, then it’s going to impact their business,” Ms Fabling said.,

“As farmers and our transport mechanisms are becoming more and more reliant on data, we need to make sure that our region’s capability is keeping up and currently it is not.”

‘We rely so much on apps’

A woman, child and infant wearing farm clothes sit on a bench alongside with western boots. The woman smiles at the child.

Betty-Lou Haydon says improved telecommunications would make businesses run smoother.(

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Bridget Herrmann

)

Reliable mobile service is not a new problem for some farmers in the region but with the increase in visitors to the Mid West and the aftermath of Cyclone Seroja, the situation has worsened.

Canna-based farmer Betty-Lou Haydon is “frustrated” with the quality of mobile services at her property, where often she can only access the ageing 3G network.

Ms Haydon experiences slow or no mobile internet download speeds and sometimes text messages are delayed — something she says is “absolutely” worse in recent months.

“We rely so much on apps within our business now; we use it for our weather, for our grain marketing, we’re also doing an online course and we need Zoom, as well as other apps,” she said.

“We just can’t access those apps when we’ve got low internet service and low download speeds, so that’s very challenging.”

A woman in farming clothes stands in a paddock of green wheat. She's holding her mobile high looking for a signal.

Ms Haydon’s family often work in paddocks and need reliable access to the internet throughout the farm. (

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Bridget Herrmann

)

Ms Haydon also had issues with her Telstra-provided home internet service in July when her Business Activity Statement did not lodge.

“I went back though my filing and I could see that I’ve got a lodgement number and everything had been done,” she said.

“That was probably the final straw for me. I was lagging in the hope that Telstra would improve its home internet but I just decided that I’d go with the satellite NBN provider from now on.”

Come harvest time this year, she expects the mobile services will pose challenges for farmers in the community.

“Especially with the CBH app, we really will require good signal for that to work,” she said.

“[And] daily grain prices come through every day and sometimes if your signal’s not great, those text messages don’t come in to later in the day.

“That could be a significant cost to the business.”

Telco service upgrade on the way

In a statement, Telstra’s regional general manager for Western Australia Boyd Brown said the company would soon be upgrading the base station that serviced Canna and the transmission.

He says the area will have much faster data speeds when it is complete.

The new coverage is expected to be operating in mid-2022.

Mr Brown said that in Canna only 3G is currently offered by both Telstra and Optus and that the best option for locals is NBN satellite.

A wide shot shows a tall tower against a cloudy sky, with the tops of some trees visible in the corner of the shot.

Telstra says those affected can use use external antennas or mobile boosters to improve coverage.(

ABC News: Jackson Gothe-Snape

)

Ms Fabling has had some “really great conversations” with Telstra.

“I understand what their barriers are — being a full listed company with shareholders … but that doesn’t help us,” she said.

“Put a focus into some of these more remote and regional areas to keep the services up.

“This is where government has a role to play in looking at where they can partner to put more towers in, give more bandwidth … with more competition we may arrive at a better service.”

The MWCCI is putting its concerns in a submission to the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review 2021.

“I would like to see the outcomes of what this review is going to obtain,” Ms Fabling said.

Tourists leave no mobile internet for farmers, businesses
Source:
Source 1

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here