This year's Splendour in the Grass music festival looks like it's going to be missing a key act throughout the weekend: Telstra coverage. Festival organisers said yesterday that Telstra refused to provide its portable base stations for the event, meaning that poor coverage was expected for music lovers on the telco. Now we know where it all went wrong.
Splendour organisers recently told attendees to check their phone before they showed up with their tents, adding that Telstra customers could expect limited mobile phone coverage at the event. On the flipside, however, Vodafone and Optus customers will be in luck and can expect great coverage and better 4G speeds.
Telstra coverage will suffer due to a decision not to roll out additional infrastructure in the area of the festival to cope with demand. Telcos normally roll out things called COWs to cope with demand. A COW is a Cell On Wheels which can be deployed to areas where towers have been destroyed by natural disasters or where demand is likely to be high (a music festival for example).
Telstra rolled out its COWs to Splendour free of charge last year, but this year it's looking for payment. Telstra has told us that covering Splendour in the Grass with its COW units is difficult at the best of times due to the location of the festival, meaning that significantly expanding the coverage available to Splendour in the Grass attendees has started to become "uneconomical".
So where did it all fall over? Telstra was working on a plan with Splendour organisers to share the cost of a permanent network installation, not just for phone coverage but also for super-fast internet. That internet connection supposedly would have been used for free festival Wi-Fi, and would have been provided to the organisers at a lower price than the telco would have normally offered. Despite the reduced cost, it was still too much for Splendour organisers who subsequently turned it down.
Yesterday Splendour organisers said that they couldn't bear the additional cost for network infrastructure in this year's festival budget: "While we are committed to providing you with the best Splendour experience possible, we are not in a position to pay many hundreds of thousands of dollars for a service that actually generates revenue for Telstra," organisers wrote.
Here's the full statement on the matter:
In the past Telstra has invested in supporting the improvement in coverage and capacity however the increasing demand coming from smartphone and tablet use is making the conventional temporary installation of COWS (cells on wheels) less effective and in some cases uneconomic.
The Splendour in the Grass event is held in a somewhat isolated area with limited network infrastructure of any type. The site is also shielded by surrounding mountains which gives limited mobile service to festival attendees.
We are aware of how important mobile coverage is to our customers and attendees at Splendour in the Grass and are continuing to plan for the event with a view to optimise capacity in the cells that currently serve the area alongside reviewing the availability of some of our temporary COWs normally used for emergency responses. If these are available at the time of the event we will also deploy this infrastructure to get the best outcome for all involved.
Concert image via Shutterstock