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Satellite connection improving service for regional electricity customers

Media Release

SA Power Networks is accelerating rollout of newly-available low-orbit satellite technology for crews working in regional and remote areas, delivering an improved service for customers across the electricity distribution network spanning 180,000-square kilometres of South Australia.

SA Power Networks is the first energy distributor in Australia to utilise Starlink’s low-orbit satellite communications to ensure internet connectivity in areas where it was previously not available.

Information technology has a crucial role in managing the electricity network as it is essential to safe power restoration and network maintenance as crews use it to co-ordinate switching and other key tasks.

“We’re already witnessing game-changing accessibility, performance and safety benefits,” said Paul Salter Head of Powerline & Electrical Services at SA Power Networks.

“Regional crews can now access consistent high-speed internet from anywhere at any time, making it faster and safer to carry out restoration and maintenance tasks and to keep the business and customers informed of their progress.”



Internet access anywhere in the state

“As part of a pilot project last year, we fitted 11 vehicles with Starlink systems,” said Paul.

This included elevated work platform (EWP) trucks based at Wudinna, Port Pirie, Yorketown, and Kingscote depots. “We’re now moving to fit more than 150 of our vehicles with the technology by the end of 2024,” Paul said.

“Our crews can be anywhere around the state at any time, and with Starlink they're able to make and receive phone calls and connect to our IT network to access critical information and all our business systems that help keep them and the community safe and connected to power.”

What is Starlink and how does it work?

Starlink is a satellite internet network developed by US aerospace company SpaceX. Because it uses thousands of satellites about 550km from Earth (compared with 35,786km for traditional satellites), the latency – that is the round-trip data time between the user and satellite – is significantly lower.

With a Starlink antenna attached to their vehicles, all crew members need is a clear view of the sky and WiFi mode on their devices and they can get faster internet than most people get in their homes (it’s up to 500-times faster than the technology used in the past by SA Power Networks)

Game-changing for customers and our people

“There are many remote areas in South Australia where cellular coverage is unreliable or non-existent and we have historically had a lot of phone and connectivity issues,” Paul said.

Crews often have to drive 20 minutes or so to a spot where they can get phone or internet reception for their Toughpad devices so they could call Adelaide to get approvals for safe switching or look something up, and then drive 20 minutes back to the job.

“That slows down restoration efforts in regional and remote areas,” Paul said.

“With Starlink crews have full connectivity in their trucks, which makes their jobs safer while outage times for our customers can be significantly reduced."

Starlink also allows constant contact with crews as they traverse the state, giving leaders peace of mind about their safety.

Wide range of benefits

By providing regional crews continuous communication capacity and connectivity, Starlink is delivering a range of strategic benefits for crews, customers, and the business.

This includes:

Improved performance for customers and field crew

With network connectivity no longer a constraint, crews are better equipped to accomplish more digital tasks, access digital field switching, and make more on-site decisions. This has led to significant reductions in travel time and administrative effort, and is allowing crews to respond faster, reduce repeat and unnecessary trips, and improve restoration times for customers.

Greater availability

Crews can stay in constant contact with their leaders, ensuring real-time safety information is consistently available to everyone who needs it – particularly during emergency response situations such as storms or bushfires.

More information and innovation

Better real-time data means SA Power Networks can provide customers with the most up-to-date information on which to make plans if their power is out, while improving network reliability and support. Reducing manual input and the need for offline capability provides opportunities for increased operational efficiencies and greater capacity for future innovations.


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