Bush Internet on the Move
16 July 2012
A simple idea and a bit of know-how have led to the creation of mobile satellite unit that promises to change the future of communications in the bush.
Etheridge Shire Council Information Technology Officer Terry Walsh is the brains behind the fully portable system that gives the user access to the internet, email and the Council’s internal network facilities and fits neatly on the back of a ute.
Mr Walsh said the idea to create the mobile unit came about after the success of a recent project where satellite communications were installed at a remote work camp.
“After the success we had with the remote satellite installation which is fixed to the demountable site office at the base camp for the Hann Highway Project, the Shire Engineer Ian Clarke asked if there was any way we could make one that was transportable,” Mr Walsh said.
“I had a think about it over the weekend, came up with some sketches that would make it compact and easy to transport on any commercial vehicle and while we were happy with the idea we were concerned about who would build it.”
It took nine weeks of tinkering at home and the assistance of local business Georgetown Tyre and Mechanical for the unit to be completed.
The unit can be setup in any location across the shire and provided “line of site” to the Satellite is available it will continue to operate in all but the severest of weather conditions.
“What this means is a standard internet connection should now be available on the user’s laptop and should have reasonable up-download speed,” he said.
“The system will also have a usable wireless network range of 50m this will include the user being seated inside a demountable building or caravan.”
It weighs about 180kg, runs on solar power with battery backup and uses a 2way Broadband Satellite link with a bandwidth of 1024Mbs in both directions.
The system has a built in 802-11G wireless network router, and with the use of a 9db high gain antenna the system has a wireless connection range up to a maximum of 50m, and allows the user the choice of working location without any cabling required.
“The need to communicate with our crews is of vital importance and when they are two and three hundred kilometers away driving back and forth to drop off timesheets and orders it proves to be costly and inefficient,” Mr Walsh said.
“Once the current project is completed and the crew moves to another location they pack up the unit, move camp and set it up again.”
Mr Walsh, a former Telstra technician from Cairns, has been employed by the council for a decade.
His role as Information Technology Officer includes the purchase, installation and maintenance of all the IT, telephony, radio and TV broadcast transmission equipment across the Shire.
Etheridge Shire Chief Executive Officer Lew Rojahn said the unit was already proving to be a valuable asset.
“This single innovation has the potential to save the council thousands of dollars and just as many man-hours,” Mr Rojahn said.
“Terry’s skills have not gone unnoticed – he is an appreciated and respected member of the workforce … without him our work crews would still be driving back and forth with bits of paper for hours every day.”
For more information on the mobile satellite communications unit contact Terry Walsh on 0429621234 or telephone the council on 4062 1233.