Telstra has created a $200,000 mobile exchange on wheels that can provide 450 telephone and over 300 ADSL2+ services at speeds up to 20Mbps in disaster zones.
The exchange, known as MEOW, weighs three tones and can be towed behind a 4WD or light truck (see photo gallery right).
The MEOW was developed by Telstra engineers after the devastating bushfires in Victoria and complements the telco's other disaster recovery tools, such as its portable mobile base station called cell on wheels (COW).
The MEOW is fitted with an air conditioner and a DC power system as a back up. It can also be connected to an external diesel generator.
Once on site, the MEOW's services can be quickly activated by a Telstra team of just two technicians, Telstra said.
Technicians are required to connect it to either a mobile generator or mains power; connect it to an existing fibre cable from a local fibre access point; reconfigure software to allow traffic to be directed into the network; and to connect the copper pairs from the existing exchange to the MEOW.
Group managing director for Telstra consumer, David Moffatt, said the MEOW was an Australian-first.
"The importance of communications is never more apparent than during and after a disaster. So we often deploy portable base-stations to enhance mobile coverage in affected areas and to provide broadband to emergency service organisations and relief centres," he said.
"To further improve our disaster-response capabilities, today I'm proud to unveil the Telstra Mobile Exchange on Wheels, a portable, ADSL2+ enabled exchange designed specifically to respond to disasters such as the Black Saturday bushfires."
The launch of the MEOW also marked the opening of four exchanges that have been rebuilt or enhanced since Victoria's deadly bushfires.