When Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit Queensland last week, one of the casualties was the region’s mobile phone network. Phone towers can stop working because they have been damaged by the wind, or because they have run out of diesel to run their generators.
Whatever the cause, the end result is the same: a number of people will find their mobile phones not connected to the network, leaving them without communications for an extended period of time. Here's how to stay connected in times of need.
It’s not just tropical cyclones that can affect mobile communications. Bushfires and other disasters can also lead to a break in the network.
This loss of communication is extremely isolating, and potentially very dangerous. Whether it’s the inability to call an ambulance or the absence of regular safety warnings, a lack of communications can be life-threatening.
The sensation of being cut off from the rest of the world also brings with it a danger of a different kind. Severe isolation can cause concern for our loved ones. This very human problem is what led me to start my research in this area.
So how can we let people communicate using their mobile phones, when the phone network isn’t available?
All about networking
For nationwide communications, you really do need phone towers and their supporting infrastructure. There currently just aren’t any good alternative solutions to providing communications on such a large scale.
But if you change the scope of the solution to focus more on internal communications within smaller communities, alternatives suddenly begin to present themselves.
The ACCC, in its most recent quarterly report, says that of the almost 4.5 million residents that have an NBN broadband connection at home, almost half of them are on fast plans with speeds of 50Mbps or more. That's a ten-fold increase on the proportion of users on fast plans at the end of 2017.
Unless new legislation is passed today, Australians will no longer be able to opt out of the government's My Health Record from tomorrow. Planned as an "online summary of your health information" that "can be accessed at any time by you and your healthcare providers", there are no guarantees about how your data will be used by said providers. Here's what you need to know about MHR and how to opt-out if privacy is your main concern.