Around 2000 back-up satellites will be installed at rural fire service stations across Australia, after telecommunications outages hampered firefighting and evacuation efforts last bushfire season.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher will announce on Wednesday around $7 million will be spent on emergency satellite services to prevent rural fire stations and evacuation centres being cut-off during times of bushfire and other natural disasters, during a visit to Yass.
It is part of a $37.1 million package unveiled in May to strengthen telecommunications resilience in bushfire and disaster prone areas.
The satellites, which will be installed by the end of the year, will provide a back-up option if fixed line services are cut-off during a natural disaster.
They will allow allow Wi-Fi to be provided at RFS depots and at evacuation centres to both the community and emergency service organisations.
"The demonstration of the back-up satellite service at the Yass River RFS station shows how rural fire stations and evacuation centres will use the facilities to be deployed under the resilience boosting program," Mr Fletcher said.
"There will be a formal process to go through to identify and prioritise deployment sites in consultation with state and territory emergency service agencies. We expect a high number of RFS stations across Eden-Monaro will benefit from this program."
It comes as the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements turns its focus to how poor telecommunications impacted communities during the 2019-20 bushfires.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority found nearly 1400 telecommunications facilities were either directly or indirectly impacted by the bushfires, largely due to power outages.
More than half of the telecommunications towers that went down during the crisis were out for more than four hours, with an average outage of 3.5 days. The longest outage was for 23 days, however the ACMA review did not include fire-damaged towers that had not come back online by January 31.
Brian Windebank, who was holidaying in Mallacoota when fires swept through the area, told the royal commission on Tuesday the phones dropped out and the only information they were able to receive was through the ABC and the radio.
Mary Hoodless, a community safety officer with the Jingellic Rural Fire Service, said they lost all mobile phone connectivity a day after the fire began.
"Not everyone has satellite Wi-Fi or NBN and we had it on our property and we found that a lot of people were coming to our house and perching on our verandah to get their information and their various fires near me app, NSW RFS fires near me and our driveway became quite congested and our verandah with people," Ms Hoodless said.
Ms Hoodless also drove around, sharing information with vulnerable members of the community.
"So that added to the congestion on the roads through that time and we didn't get mobile back until very late in January," Ms Hoodless said.
Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro Fiona Kotvojs also told the royal commission there was a need to improve mobile phone reception in areas most vulnerable to bushfires.
"I note for example the problem that residents in Yowrie, Wandella and Dignams Creek - all badly impacted by the fire, with the first two being devastated before the fire was expected to reach the location - have repeatedly reported in writing over the last two years in regards quality of mobile reception and the failure of Telstra to address these issues," her submission said.
"This will result in the loss of life, if it has not already."
Dr Kotvojs also said mobile phone towers needed independent power sources so they could continue operating during a blackout.