Residents living in areas around Splendour’s North Byron Parklands are warily welcoming the return of two ‘CoWs’ to the site this year.
They hope the late confirmation that Telstra will provide two of its Cells on Wheels (temporary phone towers) to the event will not only improve phone reception for festivalgoers but also spell an end to outages they have experienced during peak periods in the past.
Last Friday Splendour warned on its Facebook page that Telstra customers could expect reception problems at the festival.
‘Vodafone and Optus are supplying equipment to boost mobile coverage for Splendour, Telstra [is] not. Telstra customers will have very limited mobile phone coverage at Splendour. It will be difficult to get a signal to make calls, download or upload any data,’ the post read.
Following a community outcry, however, Telstra said it had ‘reviewed the availability of some of our temporary CoWs normally used for emergency responses and will be able to provide two satellite Cells on Wheels for the Splendour in the Grass event.
But a statement from Telstra’s corporate affairs said that the claims made by the event organisers ‘weren’t entirely accurate’.
‘The Splendour in the Grass event is held in a somewhat isolated area with limited network infrastructure of any type, the area is also shielded by surrounding mountains which gives limited mobile service,’ the statement said.
It continued that ‘the increasing demand coming from smartphone and tablet use is making the conventional temporary installation of CoWS less effective and uneconomic.’
‘Telstra proposed a joint investment in a permanent solution to the festival organisers, which would have supported not only mobile infrastructure but also other high bandwidth internet connections and potentially wifi. The organisers decided not to take up this opportunity and we respect their decision,’ the statement said.
Splendour organisers said yesterday they could not justify the expense of contributing towards the cost of permanent infrastructure while the event is in a five-year trial at its new site.
‘With regard to Telstra’s permanent solution, North Byron Parklands is still in a trial phase and not in a position to invest in permanent infrastructure, but we look forward to working with Telstra on a mutually beneficial plan for the future,’ organisers said in a media release.
‘We are very happy that Telstra has made the commendable decision to deploy two CoWs for Splendour 2014. We understand that this will improve mobile services for Telstra customers both at Splendour and in the areas immediately surrounding North Byron Parklands for the duration of the event,’ they added.
A Telstra spokesperson told Echonetdaily the temporary infrastructure will provide 3G mobile coverage for Telstra customers attending the event, that is both voice and data.
‘However, these temporary facilities may not provide capacity to support the busiest periods during the festival, so we ask our customers to be patient during these times, wait a few minutes and try again,’ the spokesperson said.
‘We’ll also continue to talk to the event organisers about a more suitable permanent solution for future years (which was out intent with discussions this year),’ he added.
Despite the two CoWs, Kathy Norley, president of the South Golden Beach Residents Association, says she worries there could still be days on end of outages in store for people living as far afield as Pottsville and Brunswick Heads if her experience of previous festivals are anything to go by.
‘My concern is that it isn’t going to be adequate because when we’ve had these festivals before, even with the extra CoWs we’ve had problems,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘Splendour seemed more concerned about their punters’ telecommunications – and were getting out to all media outlets about the situation with Telstra,– than they were about their neighbours’ telecommunications – the residents of the north. We live here and as such deserve to be treated with dignity and understanding; a situation like this is about to affect our safety as well as our amenity,’ Ms Norley said.
‘My immediate concern is that the safety and amenity of the local residents are not put at risk.
‘We’ve had several cases in the past of people during the festival periods unable to make emergency calls, even from their landlines.
‘Existing use has its problems but we all cope. If it was only for one day, not a problem, but the festival runs for five days and the outages can last for a week.
‘If this happens again, the numbers at the festival need to be reduced or the capacity on the towers and the exchanges will have to be enlarged. We do not need more towers but we do need more capacity.’
Ms Norley advised people who experience any problems with mobiles, home phone or internet during the festival to advise the council and their telco.
‘They can download Byron Shire Council’s app Snap Send Solve, or they can go online and register their feedback on this Telstra web form http://telstra.com.au/mobile-phones/coverage-networks/coverage-feedback/.
Telstra says this form can be used to report mobile outages and faults, in order to ‘paint a picture’ of mobile coverage outages and the severity of these outages.
For fixed line outages, Telstra still recommends calling 132203 ‘as they require more complex and specific data from the customer,’ the telco says.