Telstra customers in Millicent and surrounds faced disrupted services for a number of days until the fault was remedied on Sunday afternoon. The inability to make mobile phone calls, text and access emails and the internet became evident on Wednesday evening with intermittent coverage in the following days.
As well as personal matters, many Millicent businesses with Telstra-connected EFTPOS machines could only accept cash while the COVID check-ins using QR codes were also impacted. This situation applied to Millicent’s only staffed service stations at Billygoat Corner and on Adelaide Road.
Shearer’s Cook Café proprietor Melissa Armfield said around a third of the customers of her Kentish Place business used EFTPOS. “The coverage came and went,” Ms Armfield said. “My customers were able to withdraw cash from the Foster’s Supermarket next door. “There were many problems using the QR sign-in codes and so we had lots of paper sheets.”
The Telstra outage was strongly criticised by Millicent Business Community Association chairman Lee Morgan. He said some businesses that were connected via the NBN were less affected, but the whole community was impacted.
“In my conversation with Telstra’s state manager I have requested the community should be better informed of the outages,” Mr Morgan said. “I am aware many people drove to the Telstra shop at Mount Gambier thinking their mobile phone was not working, only to be told the regional fault had been logged.
“As a telecommunications giant in Australia, I think there are alternative ways to get the message out there when there is local or regional fault. “This could include an update of outages on the Telstra website, or messaging could be achieved by having announcements on local radio or that Telstra provide a community contact advice system (like through the post office or community organisations).
“The Millicent Business Community Association will be writing to Telstra with these suggestions and more importantly, seek improvements and list the costs of lost business experienced by its members.”
Telstra said it was initially thought it was a transmission issue and its technical team visited the site. It was later found to be a hardware fault that needed a specialised part to be ordered and delivered to Millicent.
Residents on the outskirts of Millicent may have received some patchy coverage during this time as there are two other Telstra towers located at Tantanoola and Mount Burr that could have provided coverage.
Telstra regional general manager Mark Bolton said his company apologised for the issue that impacted 3G and 4G mobile coverage in Millicent. Mr Bolton said the problem occurred at the mobile base station located on the SA Water concrete water tower in Salts Street.
“While there are other Telstra mobile base stations in the area, this site provides the majority of coverage for Millicent,” Mr Bolton said. “Fixed line services and NBN services were not impacted and any triple zero calls would have been diverted to base stations of other carriers located in the town.
“Telstra technicians will continue to monitor the performance of the site to ensure it continues to deliver full coverage to Millicent. “We understand that some Millicent businesses may have experienced issues with their EFTPOS machines during this time.
“Telstra does not operate the EFTPOS network, it is operated by financial institutions. “While some EFTPOS terminals use Telstra 3G and 4G connectivity, many EFTPOS terminals can also be connected using fixed line or Wi-Fi/NBN internet connections.
“Retailers should contact their bank for more information and details on how to switch between these methods if future issues or outages arise.”