No cellphone reception in Somerville Victoria could be a matter of ‘life or death’
The suburb of Somerville is only 55 kilometers from Melbourne.
It’s not a remote city by any country’s standards, but it’s one of the only fully developed urban areas in Australia with spotty or no reception.
Jane runs the local trailer park where most of the permanent residents are elderly people with compromised health and their phones are their lifeline.
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“It’s scary, because I had to make an emergency call for my husband, who was having a heart attack. And I literally had to leave him and go out into the street, to call the ambulance,” said said Audrey, a resident. A topical matter.
Audrey is one of 40 trailer park residents that Jane feels responsible for.
“Because seeing your family and watching over your affairs in this way – and all I need is help – I’ve been to so many areas asking for help and no one can help us” , Jane said.
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She said the inconsistent mobile service even cost someone their life.
“About a month ago a resident was doing CPR on another resident,” she said.
“Another resident was outside the unit on the phone for help from Triple Zero and he had to come in to pass messages to the gentleman doing CPR and the phone kept dropping.
“She was dead. She’s dead.”
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Audrey said she complained to Telstra from reception and asked for an explanation.
“The reason is that we have old copper wiring in this area and the wiring, the copper is breaking down,” she said.
Local Somerville man John said he shelled out hundreds of dollars out of his own pocket to fix the problem, to no avail.
“I bought new adapters. I bought new boosters, I spent a lot of money. I even offered to pay for them to come and see my cable and check it. They won’t , ” he said.
Maya is also a resident of the caravan park.
She is in shock that she cannot be received just 55 kilometers from Melbourne.
“If the man can talk to another man on the moon, surely I should be able to be received here,” she said.
In a statement to A Current Affair, Telstra said:
· In general, the community of Somerville is well covered with 3G, 4G and in some places 5G mobile coverage on the Telstra network, as well as mobile coverage on other networks.
· However, reception can be affected by a range of factors such as distance from a tower, type of handset used, types of building materials, terrain and tall trees.
· Although there is reasonable outdoor mobile coverage at the caravan park, we are aware that there is limited indoor coverage in many locations.
· In the long term the best solution is a new mobile base station built close to the caravan park but at this stage there are no current plans to do so in the near future.
· In the meantime, for residents who have access to an nbn service, we encourage the use of wifi calling, a free setting on most popular phones that allows people to make and receive mobile calls using wifi.
· Residents can also benefit from better coverage through the use of a mobile phone amplifier and an external antenna mounted at their home.
In a statement, Optus said:
· At Optus, we are always looking to improve our services to ensure that our customers are connected to the latest technologies.
· In December last year, Optus completed a number of upgrade works at its Somerville, Victoria site, including upgrading existing 4G services and rolling out 5G technology. This work was done to improve the network experience for our customers in the region.
Today 2n/a March 2022, the Somerville site is temporarily unavailable so that corrective work can be undertaken. The major works are now complete and the site will be operational again this evening (Wednesday 2n/a March).
· We recognize the need to increase network coverage in the region and have therefore planned to build a new site at the Somerville Shopping Center which is expected to be completed within the next 12 months.
· Optus is committed to keeping its customers connected. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused our customers.