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Singtel's Optus does not expect material financial impact from Australian fires

SINGTEL'S wholly-owned subsidiary Optus on Tuesday said it does not expect the financial impact of the Australian bushfires to be material at this time.

The situation has improved "significantly" from the weekend when 17 base stations were down, of which seven locations were confirmed as damaged due to fire, Optus chief executive Allen Lew said in a media statement.

"These sites will require partial or full rebuilds, but pleasingly, our intercity fibres that run through some of the impacted areas connecting Sydney to Melbourne are operational," Mr Lew added.

On Monday, a spokesman for Singtel told The Business Times that the bushfires had disrupted parts of the Optus telecom network in the south-eastern states of New South Wales and Victoria.

Mr Lew on Tuesday night said that although a "small part" of the network in south-eastern Australia was adversely affected by fire damage and power outages, Optus was able to top up generators and bring in satellite base stations to provide communications in the affected areas thanks to favourable weather conditions in the past 72 hours.

Optus is providing financial assistance to customers affected by the bushfires, it said in the media statement. This may include free call diversions, extended timeframes for bill payments, bill waivers, free suspension or cancellation of an Optus fixed services, or free prepaid credit.

In addition, given the spike in Internet use, Optus will provide unmetered access to emergency services websites for customers in bushfire-affected areas so that they can access information without exceeding their plans' data caps.

The bushfires are a live and evolving situation, and Optus is preparing for their impact to last for an extended period, Mr Lew said.

"Maintaining network service continuity and refuelling generators to support our network remain a priority, and while weather conditions evolve, our contingency planning will best prepare us for any additional challenges," he added.

Optus will continue to work with emergency services organisations in the affected states to monitor the situation.

Singtel shares were down S$0.03 or 0.9 per cent to S$3.33 as at 10.12am on Wednesday.