Remote communications trialled

The results of a Wi-Fi trial at Douglas Daly Research Farm, 220km south-west of Darwin, could be a game-changer for people on large outback stations across the Territory.

The technology provides wireless internet networks that give coverage in what would otherwise be an internet blackspot. The technology implementation is a first of its kind in Northern Australia allowing internet and voice access where there has been none previously.

The technology is not reliant on one provider and is equally suitable for farms with satellite or 3G cellular or any other type of internet connection. This technology is designed to be installed and maintained by farmers, removing the expense of telecommunications experts having to travel out bush.

This trial saw widespread Wi-Fi coverage achieved across the 3100ha Douglas Daly Research Farm. Other Wi-Fi solutions claiming long range are base to base whereas the new technology at Douglas Daly is base to mobile.

Widespread Wi-Fi coverage in remote areas can mean a range of things, including better cattle or crop management, increased worker safety, improved mental health for residents, and the ability to keep pace with rapidly changing technology.

While allowing for remote monitoring of cattle and farm management systems, reliable communication on farm is essential for worker safety and mental health for remote residents.

The trial is an innovative collaboration between the Department of Primary Industry and Resources and Wi-Fi specialist, Agrinet. The search for a solution to the widespread communications problem across Northern Australia began after conversations between technology staff from the Department, the NT Cattlemen’s Association and the NT Farmers Association in late 2015.

The first tower installed at the research farm saw signal reach 2km through thick bush. Subsequent installations have seen the range increased to 10km.

The next step of the trial will see the technology installed at Victoria River Research Station, which is 10 times the size of Douglas Daly Research Farm.

Antenna installed at Douglas Daly Research Farm
Antenna installed at Douglas Daly Research Farm