Telstra upgrades lead to business disruptions in Sale

Upgrading Telstra network in Sale. Photo: John Morgan

Stefan Bradley

TELSTRA works and disruptions in Sale are expected to continue until next Friday (July 12), which follows major shutdowns this week on Monday and Tuesday, that affected not only many mobile customers, but also EFTPOS machines in the area.

The manager of the Gippsland Centre, Emma Waghorne, said she believed the centre’s tenants (businesses) had potentially lost hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars in the fallout of EFTPOS going offline.

On Facebook, the Gippsland Centre made a post on Monday afternoon recommending customers bring cash.

“We only have one ATM in the centre, which ran out of money. And the supermarkets don’t really do cash out anymore,” Ms Waghorne said.

“You can leave the centre for another ATM, but most people won’t want to do that if they just want to buy a loaf of bread, so they’ll go elsewhere.”

As previously flagged by the company and reported in the Gippsland Times (21/06/24), Telstra mobile services in Sale are undergoing works to improve future service.

From Monday, June 24, Telstra began upgrading its mobile base station in Sale for improved capacity, with the upgrade expected to be complete by Friday, July 12.

These works require some temporary service disruptions or reduction in mobile coverage; however, on Monday, July 1 and Tuesday, July 2, a planned full-site shutdown occurred.
Telstra told the Gippsland Times that the network was back online, but there may still be disruptions as works continue until July 12.

“Last month, we advised local residents, businesses and media that Telstra will be upgrading its mobile base station in Sale between Monday (June 24) and Friday (July 12), 2024,” Telstra’s regional general manager, Jenny Gray, said on Wednesday.

“Telstra mobile customers in the area should have received a text message advising them of the works and potential disruptions.

“Due to the major work required, the site was shut down on Monday, 1 July and Tuesday, 2 July which impacted mobile coverage. While the site is back online today (Wednesday), works are continuing until Friday, 12 July which means customers might still experience some disruption.”

Telstra said that NBN shouldn’t be affected by the outage and said that if a customer was having issues it was likely unrelated to the work. Customers should get in touch with Telstra and they can investigate.

The company said that customers should have received an SMS about the upcoming works a few weeks ago.

Ms Waghorne said the centre was not notified about this in any capacity, so they couldn’t provide a heads-up to the tenants that their EFTPOS could be affected. About 5-10 tenants in the centre were affected.

Text messages sent to customers referred to upgrades to the “mobile network” and impacts on the “mobile service”, with no mentions of EFTPOS.

Ms Waghorne believes this is part of the problem, with people potentially interpreting these warnings as simply affecting phone calls and data use on your mobile phone, rather business disruption.

“I think most people don’t understand what ‘mobile networks’ mean for their income,” she said.

“We spent most of the day yesterday (Tuesday) speaking to electricians and internet providers to get back online as soon as possible, using Wi-Fi.

“I’d love to know about this in advance so we could inform our tenants and let them know to be ready for it.”

A Sale resident, Hayden Nichol got in touch with the Gippsland Times on Tuesday, accusing Telstra of leaving Sale residents “hung out to dry”.

A local taxi driver, Mr Nichol said he was unable to access jobs on a smart device and customers couldn’t call the phone number to book a taxi unless it was out of Sale.

Customers received this text message last month warning of disrupted services, including the dreaded ‘SOS’ symbol allowing 000 calls only. Image: Contributed

“Us locals’ lifestyles and livelihoods (are) not considered. No pre-warning or thinking of local businesses affected. Telstra don’t care,” he said.

“Would this happen in Toorak? If this occurred in leafy Melbourne areas, there would be outrage. This sort of thing would make A Current Affair.”

Mr Nichol questioned why wasn’t there a back-up plan for local businesses.

“Still two more weeks of it. What about the elderly who can’t make outside connection with loved ones or can’t contact the chemist,” he said.

“It’s school holidays, I’m sure many a kid would be frustrated with no internet games.

“Personally I made very little in my taxi – do Telstra care? No. I’m sure many a local business have been hit financially and are angry.”

Ms Gray apologised for the inconvenience caused to Telstra customers, saying there was “never a good time” for these works to occur, but said users would see “improved 4G coverage and 5G capacity” when upgrades were completed.

“Landline services, NBN internet services and mobile coverage from other providers are not impacted by the works and any calls to Triple Zero from a Telstra mobile when the site is off air will automatically be diverted to any working mobile network for connection to emergency services,” she said.

“For businesses who believe they have suffered losses as a result of a loss of their Telstra communications, any compensation from Telstra will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Customers should contact Telstra on 132200 and raise a complaint seeking business compensation.”

Telstra shared tips for improving connectivity while works are underway.

“For mobile coverage in the interim, if residents have access to a wi-fi signal at home or at work, Telstra encourages residents to activate wi-fi calling. This is a free setting on most popular mobile phones and allows your mobile to use a Wi-Fi network to make and receive mobile calls. To find out more they can google Telstra Wi-Fi calling or just search in your settings icon on your phone,” the company said.

Monday and Tuesday were flagged as the worst for disruptions, but Ms Waghorne said EFTPOS machines were still affected as of Wednesday afternoon.

“At Bakers Delight, only one of the three EFTPOS machines is online today (Wednesday),” she said.

The question is, who is ultimately responsible for EFTPOS going down? Businesses may use the Telstra network for the terminals, but Telstra says the EFTPOS network itself is operated by the banks.

“We know many businesses use the Telstra network for their EFTPOS terminals. However, Telstra does not operate the EFTPOS network; it is operated by financial institutions. Many EFTPOS terminals can also be connected using fixed line or Wi-Fi/NBN internet connections,” Ms Gray said.

“Retailers should contact their bank for more information and details on how to switch between these methods to ensure continuous service.”

But simply switching connections may pose a problem.

“Some shops don’t have WiFi so they can’t really just switch to it,” Ms Waghorne said.