Most people rely on mobile phones and the internet for work, education, emergency information, and to keep in touch with friends and family.

But we know that telecommunications services simply aren’t reliable in many parts of the Yarra Ranges.

This has never been clearer than during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the June 2021 storms when 34 communities lost mobile and internet service for days, unable to contact 000 or family and friends. Some residents and businesses lost NBN service for more than three months.

That’s why Yarra Ranges Council has worked with the community to understand mobile and broadband connectivity issues across the region.

With this information, we’re advocating to telecommunications providers and to the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments for better infrastructure, and a system that’s stronger in the face of natural disasters.

Telecommunications study: mobile and broadband access

In 2020, we collected broadband speed tests from over 1300 homes and workplaces that voluntarily participated in Council’s survey. We also asked our community to tell us how they use the internet, and where they experienced poor mobile service.

The results show that:

  • 98.4% of people in the Yarra Ranges rely on the internet to access emergency information.
  • 18 out of 61 locations that provided speed test results had a median upload/download speed lower than 12 Mb/s, which is the minimum NBN plan speed. Over 90% of users that reported these slow speeds were still using ADSL copper fixed internet services, and the remaining 10% had used fixed wireless or satellite NBN service.

Council also completed independent testing of mobile network quality along key road networks and sites, including schools, aged care homes, community refuges and CFA stations.

  • Over 24,000+ sites were tested, with 25% of those sites having unusable or no service.

  • Key blackspots appeared around East Warburton, Hoddles Creek, Steels Creek, Fernshaw and the Dandenong Ranges, where signal is notoriously unreliable.

Council’s testing of the mobile network used industry-standard methods and technologies, which gave us a strong base to advocate for improvements. 

How Council has advocated for better service

With the insights gained from the telecommunications study, Council has been advocating for investment in local infrastructure that will improve mobile connectivity, ensure access to 000 in emergencies and strengthen broadband services.

We shared our findings with other levels of government, NBN Co and the mobile carriers to understand how the issues facing our community can be resolved.

As a result, a range of new infrastructure has been funded in Yarra Ranges.

Please note, these projects are owned and delivered by providers such as NBN, Telstra, Optus and TPG. Projects usually take 2-3 years to complete following funding announcements. Council shares this information for community awareness only and has no direct role in funding or delivering these projects.

  • Dozens of telecommunications projects were announced for Yarra Ranges in 2022 through the Victorian Government’s Connecting Victoria program – a $550 million program to improve mobile and broadband connectivity across the state. This includes NBN broadband upgrades in Monbulk, and new mobile towers in various townships. The project locations can be explored via the Connecting Victoria website

  • Two new mobile towers were been funded through the Peri-Urban Mobile Program, at Menzies Creek (Telstra) and Silvan (TPG). Funding was announced in 2022.

  • Through the Federal Government’s STAND program, NBN satellites were installed at 10 Council facilities that serve as emergency relief centres during times of natural disaster. Completed in late 2021, the satellites provide connectivity for affected residents when the broader network is down. Locations include: Coldstream Community Hall, Healesville Memorial Hall, Warburton and Millgrove Sporting Complex, Yarra Junction Yarra Centre, Yarra Glen Memorial Hall, Monbulk Living and Learning Centre, Powelltown Sporting Clubrooms, Karwarra Gardens, Olinda Recreation Reserve and the Patch Public Hall.


How will Council’s survey and speed testing help the community?

The Yarra Ranges doesn’t have any formally recognised ‘blackspots’ in its mobile and internet coverage. The quality and accessibility of service is generally considered reasonable, which means we’re often overlooked for funding opportunities and we’re low on priority lists for upgrading services.

Our experience, particularly during COVID-19 restrictions, has shown that mobile and broadband service levels are extremely inconsistent across the municipality. Our survey and testing data provide evidence of this to other levels of government and telecommunications companies. It shows the true state of the connectivity in Yarra Ranges and the problems community members experience.

The information Council has gathered will also help us to plan for natural disasters, and ensure that communities have access to internet and mobile coverage throughout emergency events. This can include using portable mobile phone towers, such as those used in East Warburton in the period before a tower was built in the region.

Are telecommunications towers the only way to improve access?

No. However, they are one of main the options to improve the service across a broad area. We are using the insights gained from our study to work with telecommunications companies, and understand what solutions can help to improve mobile blackspots and areas with slow broadband service. 

Are there things I can do to improve my service ahead of this work?

Things that could affect your Wi-Fi speed include:

  • How far your device is from your Wi-Fi router or point(s). Often, moving your device closer to your router or point will improve your internet speeds.
  • Walls and other objects located between your router and Wi-Fi points, or between your Wi-Fi points and mobile devices, may slow your connection. If possible, try to use your device within a clear line of sight to your router or point.
  • Some devices do not support faster Wi-Fi standards, due to outdated technology. Speed is dependent on both the router or point and the device that is connected to it. If you have an older device, it is likely it will not support the latest standards for the fastest speeds.
  • There could be signal interference due to traffic on your Wi-Fi network, on your neighbours’ Wi-Fi networks, or from other sources like microwaves or baby monitors.
  • Apps and programs that work in the background can slow down your connection. For example, automatically installing upgrades or having many apps and browsing windows open at once.

Things that could affect your mobile telephone and broadband internet coverage.

  • Walls and other objects located between your device and the closest mobile phone tower. If possible, try to use your device within a clear line of sight to the mobile phone tower.
  • Devices connected on older 3G services may not achieve speeds as fast as the 4G or 5G services.
  • The number of other users in the immediate area of the mobile phone tower that you are using.

The quality and speed of the service you have purchased will also have a significant impact on speeds, especially when connected to NBN services.

Small businesses running on domestic packages should investigate the commercial equivalent, which are often better suited for business purposes.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (national regulator) has a guide on ‘Improving your home internet’ that may help you further.

If you are located in a regional area, the Regional Tech Hub can help you to access services and troubleshoot connectivity problems.  

What should I do to prepare for emergency events and power outages?

During disaster season, you should refresh your emergency preparedness plans and make sure you know what to do to stay connected as much as possible, if an emergency event or power outage occurs. 

In the case of widespread and prolonged power outages, mobile services and the NBN may not work as these systems mostly rely on power from the grid and have limited battery back-up power.

Here are some useful tips to stay connected as much as possible through emergencies:

Stay mobile

Keep a charged mobile phone and portable mobile battery pack ready to use in a power outage, or if your nbn™ connection is disrupted in an emergency event. Consider turning off cellular data on unnecessary apps to save battery.

Most mobile towers can be powered by back-up batteries for 12 hours. In the case of prolonged power outages that last more than 12 hours, you can visit one of Council’s emergency relief centres where NBN Wifi service is available. Locations include: Coldstream Community Hall, Healesville Memorial Hall, Warburton and Millgrove Sporting Complex, Yarra Junction Yarra Centre, Yarra Glen Memorial Hall, Monbulk Living and Learning Centre, Powelltown Sporting Clubrooms, Karwarra Gardens, Olinda Recreation Reserve and the Patch Public Hall.

Stay updated

Local radio is a good source of information during an emergency, so keep a battery powered radio in your emergency communications kit. Also follow emergency services, including your state Fire and Rescue and Police Services, as well as utility companies and nbn (@NBN_Australia) on social media for updates.

Back up

To make sure you can access important information and essential documents from anywhere, including insurance policies and financial documents, consider creating a digital back up on a USB or in the cloud.

You can find more information to help you prepare at the Regional Tech Hub.



Does having a 5G service have health impacts?

No. We are aware of speculation that 5G networks cause health issues, but there is currently no evidence to support that theory. 5G services and telecommunications services, such as Wi-Fi routers and 4G services from mobile phone towers are safe and strictly monitored. The Australian Communications and Media Authority has plenty of information that may help clarify those concerns based on the latest research, which can be found here.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency has also clarified that there are no effects to your immune system that can be connected to 5G or other telecommunications services, as explained here.



For more information

Call 1300 368 333 or email