Telstra Tower in 2018
|Alternative names||Black Mountain Tower, Telecom Tower|
|Type||Observation and communications tower|
|Opening||15 May 1980|
|Cost||$16.3 million AUD|
|Antenna spire||195.2 m (640 ft)|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Richard Ure and the Commonwealth Department of Works|
|Main contractor||Concrete Constructions|
Telstra Tower (also known as Black Mountain Tower and formerly Telecom Tower) is a telecommunications tower and lookout that is situated above the summit of Black Mountain in Australia's capital city of Canberra. It is named after Australia's largest telecommunications company, Telstra Corporation, which owns and operates the tower. Rising 195.2 metres (640 ft) above the mountain summit, it is a landmark in Canberra and offers panoramic views of the city and its surrounding countryside from an indoor observation deck and two outdoor viewing platforms.
In April 1970, the Postmaster General (PMG) at the time commissioned the Commonwealth Department of Housing and Construction to carry out a feasibility study in relation to a tower on Black Mountain accommodating both communication services and facilities for visitors. The tower was to replace the microwave relay station on Red Hill and the television broadcast masts already on Black Mountain.
Design of the tower was the responsibility of the Department of Housing and Construction, however a conflict arose with the National Capital Development Commission which, at the time, had complete control over planning within the Australian Capital Territory.
During the approval process of the tower, protests arose on aesthetic and ecological grounds. Some people felt that the tower would dominate other aesthetic Canberra structures due to its location above Black Mountain and within a nature reserve. There was a brief green ban imposed by the Builders Labourers Federation (under the influence of Jack Mundey) that eventually failed. A case was brought before the High Court of Australia arguing that the Federal Government did not have the constitutional power to construct the tower (Johnson v Kent (1975) 132 CLR 164). The decision was made in favour of the government and construction was able to commence.
William Roy, at the time in charge of the Australian Broadcasting Commission's radio and television transmitters in Canberra, was employed to supervise the installation of technical equipment in the Tower and became its first Principal Technical Officer. In 1991 Roy gave an interview to Jana Wendt, where, according to his son, he discussed the existence of a secret surveillance centre within the tower that was part of the surveillance program later revealed to be ECHELON. A short excerpt of the interview was aired as a preview of the upcoming report, however before the full interview could air a D-Notice was placed on it, barring it from broadcast.
Black Mountain Tower was opened on 15 May 1980 by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. It was officially named Telecom Tower, and when the telecommunications company was rebranded in 1993, became Telstra Tower.
Prior to the construction of the tower, CTC-TV (now called Southern Cross Nine) had its studios located at the top of Black Mountain until new studios were constructed in Watson in 1974. Also located on the top were two guy-wired masts, one for CTC-TV channel 7 and the other one for the local ABC TV station broadcasting on channel 3. These were demolished in 1980 after the tower had opened.
Telstra Tower provides important communication facilities for Canberra along with both indoor and outdoor observation decks, a café and a gift shop. There are three floors of business, sales and radio communication facilities located between the 30.5 metre and 42.7 metre levels providing space for communication dishes, platforms and equipment for mobile services within the tower.
The viewing platforms provide 360 degree views of Canberra and the surrounding city and countryside. Visitors to Telstra Tower can see the city unfold from the enclosed viewing gallery or from the two open viewing platforms. Besides the telecommunications facilities the tower includes also a souvenir shop, a relaxing coffee lounge.
Former facilities included Canberra's only revolving restaurant which rotated 360 degrees in 81 minutes which allowing diners to experience a changing view throughout their meal. In the lower level of the Tower's entrance foyer, there was formerly an exhibition "Making Connections" which traced the history of Australian telecommunications from the earliest days into the 21st century but this has since been removed. There is a theatre which provides a video, produced shortly after the tower opened, on the tower's design and construction.
Telstra Tower has become one of the most symbolic landmarks in Canberra and a major tourist attraction with a total of over six million visitors. In 1989 the World Federation of Great Towers invited the tower to join such distinguished monuments as the CN Tower in Toronto, Blackpool Tower in England and the Empire State Building in New York City.
Telstra Tower is one of the most visually imposing structures on the Canberra skyline, visible from many parts of Canberra and Queanbeyan.