Just months after Lexton narrowly avoided disaster from a bushfire that swept through the region, residents are breathing a sigh of relief their phone coverage may now be up to modern safe standards enjoyed by most communities.
Residents have welcomed Telstra's application to build a small mobile phone tower, which will complement the new Optus tower to be operational before the end of June.
Subject to Pyrenees Shire approval, Telstra will construct a Small Cell omni antenna on a 10m pole at its exchange located in the township.
For not the first time, emergency service crews battled not only the elements but almost non-existent phone coverage as they tried to warn locals of the impending danger.
Farmer Rod McErvale, who lost 1000 acres and almost 300 sheep in the blaze, said the news of the added coverage was long overdue.
"The last two months has been very difficult, just trying to get through suppliers, insurance companies," Mr McErvale said.
"We've been going to the top of the hill and hoping, it's incredibly frustrating.
"I'd say 50 per cent of my calls have just cut out. It's always been bad, but it's something I've noticed a lot more as I've been trying to organise things.
"We know we're not the only town, but this was at least the third major incident in recent times where coverage was critically needed."
Recent incidents other than the December 20 fire include a serious school bus crash in October, the death of a woman on the Sunraysia Highway, and a man who suffered a heart attack in the centre of town.
READ MORE: BlazeAid begins work at fire ravaged Lexton
Licensee of the Lexton Post Office Geraldine Smith said since the fires, a booster had been placed in the town, which had already significantly improved coverage.
"We nearly lost the whole town," Ms Smith said.
"It's extremely important and it was a major issue when we had the fire because the coverage was so ordinary. No one could ring in or out, all we got was a little bit of service."
CFA volunteer, Cam Pitkethly, told The Courier in December locals were not getting emergency notifications.
"I was at the fire front with four other crew members and only two people received the emergency warning notification," he said.
READ MORE: Phone towers promised 'this year'
"A lot of the locals not receive the message as well - the phone service here is a disaster waiting to happen.
"The bus accident on the Sunraysia Highway proved that a couple of months ago when no one could contact 000 to raise the alarm."
Another local who asked not to be named said new coverage would be critical to the future of the town.
"Really from Avoca to Learmonth it's not brilliant," she said.
"We're right at the crossroads between Beaufort and Maryborough.
"There's at least three incidents that I know of that it would have made a huge difference."
A Telstra spokesman said it planned to roll out almost 200,000km of increased coverage across Australia.
"A further 207 wholly Telstra funded small cells (will) deliver coverage into areas where It is otherwise not economically feasible to do so," he said.
"We're looking at other options for increasing our coverage into Lexton and we'll keep the community informed of these developments."
READ MORE: Lack of phone signal putting lives at risk
Optus' website says its tower will be operational in "quarter 2, 2020". Optus also has plans for a new coverage provider near Grenville, south of Ballarat, which it also says should be up in running prior to June.
Federal Ballarat MP Catherine King wrote to Optus in December last year calling for urgent action prior to the fire. She welcomed Telstra's application.
"It's been a long wait, but finally Lexton is a step closer to having mobile access," Ms King said.
"Over the past year we've seen a bus crash and a serious fire demonstrate just how important mobile access is to a regional community like Lexton."
"Metropolitan areas take mobile connection for granted - but unfortunately in too many regional communities it is too hard to come by."
"While the wait has been far too long it is good to see progress is finally being made in Lexton."
In its planning application to Pyrenees Shire, Telstra said it would use its own "exchange hut for the antenna.
"After requests from the community, (we) are seeking to install a Small Cell omni antenna on a 10m pole to provide localised mobile phone coverage to Lexton."
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