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Bush Internet on the move

A simple idea and a bit of know-how have led to the creation of a 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 Council’s internal network facilities, and it all 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 we could make one that was transportable,” Mr Walsh said.

“I came up with some sketches that would make it compact and easy to transport on any commercial vehicle.”

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 where a ‘line of site’ to the satellite is available, and will operate in all but the severest of weather conditions. 

 “The system will have a usable wireless network range of 50 metres, with the user being seated inside a demountable building or caravan.”

The unit weighs about 180kg, runs on solar power with a battery backup, and uses a two-way 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, has a wireless connection range up to a maximum of 50 metres, allowing 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 hundreds of kilometres away, driving back and forth to deliver timesheets and orders this proves to be costly and inefficient,” Mr Walsh said.

Etheridge Shire Chief Executive Officer Lew Rojahn said the unit was already proving to be a valuable asset, noting that, “This single innovation has the potential to save Council thousands of dollars and just as many man hours.”

“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.”