Devastating wildfires are burning around the Mediterranean this summer and down south, Australia is still recovering from its worst wildfire season in history in which more than 150 lives and 1800 homes were lost on ‘Black Saturday’. Telecommunications are paramount to helping save lives and direct fire-fighting efforts in wildfires but unfortunately, infrastructure such as mobile and fixed line phones and Internet services are often early casualties in fire ravaged areas. The country’s major telco, Telstra, has launched a portable solution to this issue with the unveiling of a AUD$200,000 Mobile Exchange on Wheels (MEOW) which can be quickly deployed to provide temporary fixed-line communications including broadband.

The MEOW, which Telstra says is the first of its kind in Australia, is a portable, fully functional ADSL2+ enabled telephone exchange, specifically designed to provide communications to disaster areas.

The MEOW complements Telstra’s mobile cell on wheels (COW) – a portable mobile base station, used extensively throughout bushfire-affected regions of Victoria.

Telstra’s Mobile Exchange on Wheels weighs three tonnes, light enough to be towed behind a 4WD or light truck, and can be deployed within just 30 minutes.

Once on-site, two technicians can activate the device which can then provide 450 telephone services and over 300 ADSL2+ services at speeds of up to 20Mbps.

Telstra says it will be permanently located near the bushfire-prone areas of Victoria for quick deployment.