Lots of people in Australia have stories about their Internet connections, but remote properties have special challenges: connection can be unreliable, download speeds slow, and staff joining the property can cause havoc with data usage. In an era when reliable Internet connection is an essential business tool, all of this makes it difficult for remote properties to run their business.
As a company well-known for collaborating right along their supply chain, last year OBE Organic was approached by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Activ8me to help with a research project to create better Internet connectivity for remote primary producers.
OBE Organic producers were invited to join a small group of remote properties to investigate using the nbnTM Sky MusterTM services to improve reliability for large remote farm enterprises.
Running from August 2017 to February 2018, the project delivered a number of innovations including a robust router called the Business Hub manufactured by Activ8me specifically to meet the needs of remote properties; DIY Wi-Fi antenna kits to create a strong Wi-Fi network extending across the homestead compound; and the ability for staff to buy personal Wi-Fi data-plans, independent from the main farm business internet plan.
The project succeeded in delivering a business-grade internet and connectivity network delivering reliable internet continuity to each farm’s business. Active8me is now using the lessons learnt from this project to create a commercial Business Hub solution for all remote Australian businesses
It also unearthed a number of other insights that should be considered by farming bodies and remote farmers. Three of these that the project lead researchers will be exploring more in future, are:
One: If reliable connectivity is essential for a farm business, we need to think about Internet as an essential utility like electricity. That might mean considering:
- Having a dedicated fan-cooled utility cabinet to house the modem router and other networking hardware and cables to remove clutter (and fire hazards) from of the office, just like we all have a dedicated electricity meter box.
- Investing in proper business-grade routers to underpin a farm business, just like we invest in proper business-grade pumps to underpin cattle watering infrastructure
- Encouraging local electricians to be trained in Internet installation so this hardware can be installed, maintained and updated locally and professionally
Two: Reconsider establishing the business’ internet hub on the family home (office) as the home often has a low roof, is surrounded by trees and often offset from the main compound. Instead, locating the main connectivity service hub on a more central location and placed on the top of the tallest outbuilding can more effectively distribute WiFi in a hub and spoke model to other buildings (including quarters, yards and staff houses).
Three: An NBN SkyMuster dish should be installed on every residential dwelling or separate business ‘location’ on the property. Even if not currently required, by anticipating future staff needs and installing satellite hardware in advance, it ensures new staff or family will be able to immediately activate their own personal internet connection upon arrival.
Thank you to all the OBE producers, and other remote properties, for their involvement in this project. We all want to improve bush Internet, and OBE is proud to be working with DAF and Activ8me to try to contribute to solutions.