COVID-19 BIRRR Connectivity Tips

With the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia many BIRRR members are faced with the prospect of working from home, running businesses from home and educating children (and themselves) from home.
NB: Some of us actually already do this as part of our everyday lives.

PROVIDER COVID-19 ANNOUNCEMENTS

Check with your provider if they are offering any special deals or discounts during this time e.g. free landline calls, extra data, un-metering, add on school holiday data packs etc. Ensure you check out the terms and conditions of each offer to determine if you are eligible and how to activate the offer. Also check with your provider to see if they have Financial Hardship assistance available or offering additional help such as temporarily waiving late payment fees. This page will be updated as offers are announced

NBN SKY MUSTER PROVIDERS
  • SkyMesh– starting 23rd March  (ends 19/9/2020) Sky Muster satellite customers on normal plans will receive 10GB of relief data blocks delivered every Monday.  Historically SkyMesh have had school holiday data, their network engineers are currently investigating whether school holiday data can continue for the Easter Holidays, without causing a congested experience. Click on link for terms and conditions.
  • Activ8me – nbn Sky Muster users will get early ‘school holiday data’ 5GB per week extra at no cost between 23rd March – 19th September 2020, three months free trial of PlayOn Cloud app including 21 free recordings per-month, a further allocation of 10GB per week for 3 months was announced on 20/3/2020 Click on link for terms and conditions.
  • HarbourISP – FREE additional 45GB monthly data for Harbour ISP’s Sky Muster™ customers is now extended until 30th September for normal SM plans
  • Clear Networks – All Sky Muster plans have an additional 45GB Peak data for the next 3 months, starting from April 2020. Use Promo code:  SKYCOVID19 on checkout to get a new Sky Muster plan at half price for 6 months on 12 month contract plans (plans $59 and above).
  • IpStar – From Monday 30th of March 2020 IPSTAR Broadband will be providing an additional 10GB per week of download data allowance for each service on standard nbnTM SkymusterTM Plans for the next 3 months. This additional data will continue until 30th September 2020 and will be applicable only to your current data plan.
  • Reachnet – From Monday 30th of March 2020 IPSTAR Broadband will be providing an additional 10GB per week of download data allowance for each service on standard nbnTM SkymusterTM Plans for the next 3 months. This additional data will continue until 30th September 2020 and will be applicable only to your current data plan.
  • BordernetSky Muster satellite customers on normal plans will receive 10GB of relief data blocks delivered every Monday, (ends 19/9/2020).
MOBILE BROADBAND, ADSL, NBN Fixed Line & NBN FIXED WIRELESS
    • Telstra – consumer & small business home broadband customers (ADSL, NBN & Cable)  unlimited data at no extra charge, consumer & small business mobile customers (both post and pre paid) extra data (NB: MUST be applied for through the Telstra app, whilst connect to the Telstra network – not wi-fi), unlimited local, national & 13/1300 calls to eligible pensioners, un-metering of certain education sites. Click on link for terms and conditions. Regular updates on what Telstra are doing can be seen here
    • Optus – extra data offered for mobile broadband pre-paid and post-paid users. Offer has now ended
    • Vodafone – extra data to post-paid & pre-paid mobile broadband users (check for conditions), un-metering of certain health sites, payment assistance for those demonstrating financial hardship, unlimited standard national calls for those who have capped call plans. Click on link for latest information and terms and conditions.
    • Aussie Broadband – unmetered data 6am to 6pm, halting service suspensions & in some cases, fasters speeds. Click on link for terms and conditions.
    • Superloop – all fixed line customers will be moved to unlimited plans until 30/04/2020 Click on link for latest updates.
    • Southern Phone 24/7 unlimited data to all NBN (excluding Satellite) & ADSL Broadband from 23/03/2020 – 30/06/2020. You don’t need to do anything, the unlimited data will be provided automatically to you, at no extra charge. Click on link for terms and conditions.
    • Amaysin – All plans will be given additional data and upgraded to unlimited talk and text. Click on link for latest updates.
  • ALTERNATE FIXED WIRELESS PROVIDERS 
    • RemoteISP – In the event of schools closure or you require to work from home, we will ensure that your data limits are doubled if needed at no extra cost to you.   Contact Fiona – accounts@remoteisp.com.au
      or  0422 73 66 83 to activate.

Check your emails and your provider’s website for your provider’s specific offerings.

ACCAN Telco Assistance Packages

Here are BIRRR’s top 10 connectivity tips.

  1. Do not panic. Be resourceful and resilient. 
  2. Do not comment on media posts that the internet in regional Australia will fail and crash or will not cope with an influx of usage or will disadvantage regional students – these comments are NOT helpful and NOT true.
    NB: If you believe someone is spreading incorrect information or is not sure on how to get the best connection, send them our way. We are experienced in informing, reassuring & supporting people on how to get connected and how to stay connected (and explaining this in simple terms).
  3. Use this time to review and research your plans and technology to ensure your connection/s meet your family’s needs. Chat with your provider about what they can offer you and what your needs are in regards to working at home and/or educating from home. You may be able to ask for a ‘plan match‘ that gives extra data or increase your speed tier without paying much more than what you pay now. Many providers have social media chat facilities or you can ask for a ‘callback’ if the line is busy. Ensure that your provider has useful data usage statistics that you can access, so that you can keep track of your data. Check out the BIRRR tips on how to choose a good nbn provider.
  4. For those on nbn Sky Muster connections, utilising BIRRR tips on how to save data/use off peak data:

5. NBN Sky Muster users could consider upgrading to a nbn Sky Muster Plus planFrom 1 April 2020, nbn Sky Muster PLUS plans unmetered activities will be significantly expanded to cover all online content and applications, with only two exclusions – video streaming and VPN traffic – which will continue to be metered. Read our Sky Muster Plus fact sheet for further info.

 

nbn Sky Muster Plus account highlighting a customer who watched a 2 hour online tertiary QUT video lecture on Monday evening. The two orange columns show that the lecture was unmetered (ie the data used did not count towards their plan allowance).

6. Be patient, providers have busy call centres and may be limited in staff. Ask for a call back if your provider offers one, or try contacting them by their social media page/s or via email.

7. Nbn is actively working with retailers to ensure they optimise the network to support Australians in anticipation of unprecedented demand. Please bear in mind that nbn are a wholesaler so any developments have to be approved by providers.

From Monday 23 March NBN Co will immediately offer internet providers access to pricing relief as required to help meet demand over time at no additional cost.
NBN Co has also announced satellite broadband retailers will have temporary access to an additional 45 Gigabytes (GB) of download data for each standard Sky Muster plan from 31 March 2020, for one month. NBN Co will review demand and determine the appropriate level of allocation for an additional two months. nbn Satellite providers are encouraged to pass this data onto their customers.
NB: NBN Co has also committed to suspend the managed disconnection of legacy copper services to the 70 per cent of regional premises that can access the NBN via fixed line services, and to suspend all non‑essential work on its fixed wireless network to minimise disruptions to services and keep regional Australians connected.

8. Use Apple screen time settings to limit non essential tasks on your smart phone or tablet i-devices. Reduce the settings on video streaming programs such as Netflix . Unless required turn off video in conferences (e.g. uni lectures often don’t require the student to have video – only audio, switched on)

9. If you aren’t getting the experience you want from your internet service or aren’t sure how to chose the best connection for your needs BIRRR has many tips and advice that may help you to decide or troubleshoot your connection. Check out our website or create a post in our Facebook group stating your specific technology, your provider and your location, alternatively you can email us for advice – birrraus@gmail.com

10. KEEP CALM – explain to your workplace/school/university that it may take a few days to get yourself set up and find out all the information you need to optimise your service. Don’t be afraid to highlight any difficulties you feel you may have in regards to working or educating from home.

The Government have held a telecommunications roundtable to ensure measures are in place to support telecommunications during this time.

Prepared for BIRRR by the BIRRR Admin team, updated  30/03/2020.  Please check with your provider for correct advise regarding your connections.

Landline Phones and the Universal Service Obligation (USO)

The Universal Service Obligation (USO) is a long-standing consumer protection that ensures everyone has access to landline telephones and pay phones regardless of where they live or work.

Telstra is responsible for delivering the USO, and must provide standard telephone services (STS) on request to every premises in Australia within reasonable timeframes. This is both a legislative and contractual obligation.

Please note Telstra are required to maintain landlines in nbn Sky Muster and nbn Fixed Wireless mapped areas, people in these areas DO NOT have to move to an nbn landline and can keep their current landline service.  BIRRR recommends that you maintain your standard landline service in addition to your internet service. If you are told a different story to the above information by a provider, please contact the BIRRR team.

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Existing landlines and nbn

Telstra delivers the USO STS (Standard Telephone Service) using a mix of technologies, including copper, fibre, point to point radio (e.g. high capacity radio concentrator system or HCRC), NGWL and satellite infrastructure (i.e. Telstra’s USO Sat service).

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HCRC in North Western QLD during the devastating 2019 Floods.

Telstra fulfil their obligation to provide an STS by giving customers access to a reliable telephone service that has good voice reception and ensures connections and faults associated with this service are undertaken and repaired within a reasonable time.

You can read what features are included in a USO STS here.

How to order a STS

Orders can be placed at your local Telstra store, by calling 13 22 00, or visiting Telstra online.

Telstra national pricing ensures that customers in remote areas pay the same price for an STS as customers in cities. While this service has traditionally been provided as a fixed line telephone service, Telstra’s obligation is technology neutral meaning they can choose the technology over which they provide you with the service.  For example in some remote areas Telstra provide customers with an STS over satellite.

For more details on appointment, connection and repair times, visit the Telstra website

Telstra STS Repair Times

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Telstra Consumer Service Guarantee (CSG) Payments

If Telstra are unable to repair your landline (STS) within the agreed timeframe you may be entitled to a CSG payment. Keep a record of when you report faults and fault numbers to assist with this process.

Payments are currently:

  • $14.52 (for residential/charity customers) or $24.20 (for business customers), for each working day missed, for the first 5 working days of delay.
  • After the first 5 working days of delay, you may be entitled to receive a CSG payment of $48.40 per additional working day of delay.

The CSG payment does not apply in some cases e.f  if you are offered (even if you don’t accept) an interim telephone service, delays due to natural disasters or circumstances beyond the control of Telstra or if you don’t allow access to your property to a technician.

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For more information please call 13 22 00.

USO arrangements were put in place before the widespread availability of mobile and broadband services. In April 2016, the Government requested the Productivity Commission (PC) undertake an inquiry into the future direction of the USO in an evolving telecommunications market.

The Government released the PC’s report into the telecommunications USO on 19 June 2017. The report provides a range of recommendations regarding the future of universal access to a minimum level of retail telecommunication services.

The final report is available on the Productivity Commission’s websiteYou can read the BIRRR Submission to the Productivity Commission here.

The Government released its response to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation on 20 December 2017. The response outlined the Government’s intention to establish a Universal Service Guarantee to cover both broadband and voice services.

ACCAN TIP SHEET ON USO

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider regarding any specific information for your service. Updated 18/08/19

Prepared for BIRRR by Kristy Sparrow.

 

PlayOn Cloud

PlayOn Cloud is a mobile app that can be used to record and then download video files during off peak times.  This is useful for those on satellite connections (who usually have unused off peak data), those who are experiencing network congestion, slow equipment and those wanting to download movies and clips for times when you need to watch offline e.g plane trips and travel.

How PlayOn Cloud Works

PlayOn cloud is a streaming video recorder that is located in the cloud.  When you select a video file in the app, PlayOn streams and records the file to their server in the cloud (the recording does not use your data/connection).  Once the recording has completed you can download the file from the cloud to your device, and downloads can be scheduled to occur in off peak times or times when there is no network congestion. Cloud recordings are stored for 7 days and must be ‘downloaded’ before then or the recording will expire.

The PlayOn Cloud App is both Apple (iOS) and Android compatible.

Steps on using PlayOn

  • Download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play
  • Set up your PlayOn Cloud account

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  • There are two ways you can get recording credits – Purchase recording credits from PlayOn (prices below as at 01/08/2020), prices vary depending on the pack you choose. Recordings can be as low as 29 cents per video download.Screen Shot 2020-08-02 at 9.00.39 AM
  • Or purchase a monthly recording plan (monthly subscription).  Recordings can be as low as 25 cents per video download (prices below as at 01/08/2020). Check with your Internet Provider for any special discounts available for PlayOn Cloud.

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  • In Settings, select download options.  Select Auto-Download on WiFi & Restrict Downloads to off peak, set the off peak times (nbn Sky Muster off peak times are 1am – 7am for all providers).  PlayOn Cloud works off your local time.
  • Set your video quality (High Definition if wanting to watch on a large screen)

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  • Select channel settings and sign in to any channel accounts that you have e.g. Netflix, You Tube, Disney
  • Select the channel you want to stream from and the video, file you want to record.  Select record. The video file will now begin recording in the PlayOn Cloud, this will show in your Queue section.
  • Your video will download (this is the part that uses YOUR data) during the times you have setup in the settings tab.  Your device must be plugged into power with the app left open for this to occur, you must also have enough storage space on your device. The file will then be downloaded to your device and can be located in the Recordings tab, select device at the top of the tab to see your recording..
  • You can also download the files to your PC using the PlayOn Companion AppThe app works on both Windows and Mac systems. You still schedule recordings as normal in the PlayOn Cloud app, the files can then be downloaded directly to your choice of either the companion app on your PC or to your mobile device as normal. Download recordings automatically overnight while you sleep to use your Off-Peak data, and do it straight to your PC without the hassles of transferring the file afterwards.
  • PlayOn Cloud allows AdSkipping – Automatically skip ads when you watch recordings.

Synching between devices

If you login with the same PlayOn Cloud account, your recordings will sync across all of your devices that have the app installed. Please ensure your settings are updated in each version of the app.

Recording Failure

In the unlikely event of a recording failure, you’ll automatically be issued a replacement credit. If you encounter any further issues, contact the PlayOn support team at support@playon.tv

Playing your files on a big screen

To play your downloaded files, you can watch them directly from your device or cast them to your TV screen using a device such as Google Chromecast or Apple TV, or watch on your PC/Laptop using the PlayOn Companion App.

PlayOn Cloud Supported Channels

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You can suggest alternate channels via email to support@playon.tv

NB: Customers who downloaded the PlayOn Cloud app prior to it becoming available in Australia may have access to different channels and recording credit prices.

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with PlayOn regarding any issues.  

Thanks to Jeff from PlayOn for his assistance in compiling this document.  Prepared for BIRRR by Kristy Sparrow,  updated on 1st August 2020.

What is a Mobile Small Cell ?

What types of towers/cells are used in MBSP projects?

The Australian Government is improving mobile phone coverage and competition in regional and remote Australia through the Mobile Black Spot Programme (MBSP). As of 18/3/19 there have been 4 rounds of Federal Government MBSP funding, you can read about each round here.

Types of Base Stations that maybe used in the Mobile Black Spot Program
Base Station Type Typical Coverage Radius Typical Use
Picocell 200m high rise building, hotel or car park use
Microcell 1-2km shopping centres, transport hubs, mine sites, city block, temporary events or natural disasters.
Macrocell 5-32km suburban, city and rural use
Macrocell – Extended Reach 50-150km using extender cell technology suburban and rural use

More details here http://www.mobilenetworkguide.com.au/mobile_base_stations.html

What is A Small Cell ?
Small Cells can be either Picocells or Microcells
  1. What is the range of a small cell?
    The range of a small cell is dependent on a number of variables. Small cells are only viable when they can be achieved at the right price point, which in simple terms means the site’s antennas (especially for small cells deployed as part of the Black Spot program) are normally mounted on an existing building. Coverage typically therefore extends a radial distance of approximately 300m from the site.
  2. Does it only support 4G?
    The small cells we are deploying are 4G only. Telcos believe that this provides support for advanced voice and data features at the best cost point. Addition of 3G capability would significantly add to the deployment cost and render it economically unviable.
  3.  And therefore they need to use Voice over WiFi
    Voice calls on 4G small cells require the handset to support VoLTE (Voice on LTE). If the handset also supports Voice over WiFi (e.g. the new Samsung S8 & S8+ blue tick phone) then it will seamlessly handoff from VoLTE (outside coverage) to VoWiFi if say a premise has fixed broadband connected to a WiFi access point.
  4. If a community wanted to upgrade the small cell to increase coverage, is that something we’d consider.
    The viability of a small cell program relies on a low cost solution delivering an acceptable coverage solution for our customers. The rollout of the Small cell program for the Federal Government Blackspot program is a good example of this. Telcos always aim to maximise the coverage we provide for a community within the funding constraints. If a community wishes to contribute towards augmentation of a site then we are happy to review that on a case by case basis.

Thanks to Telstra for the above information on small cells.

Telstra have also developed a lower cost version of the Mobile Satellite Small Cell, see details below.  To register your interest in a small cell, contact Telstra via email – TelstraRegionalAffairs@team.telstra.com

 

Prepared by Julie Stott & Kristy Sparrow for BIRRR, Source: Australian Financial Review Source: Department of Communications and Arts

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider regarding your own connection issues and best plans available.

 

 

nbn Sky Muster Plus v2 SM+

nbn Sky Muster Plus (SM+) is a new product development for satellite users, launched on 12th August 2019, with nbn Sky Muster Plus 2.0 (enhancement version) released on 1 April 2020.  You can read about the differences between a normal nbn Sky Muster plan and a plus plan here.

SM+ is a plan which will provide nbn Sky Muster users with unlimited unmetered data across all online content and applications, with only two exclusions – video streaming and VPN traffic – which will continue to be metered. You can read the minister/s announcement here.

Unmetered = data that is not measured or counted as part of your monthly usage, this is unlimited and you will never be slowed for unmetered data.

Metered = data that is measured or counted as part of your monthly usage – this is the data that will be counted in your Sky Muster Plus plan.

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The above list is only a sample of the unmetered/metered content

* Certain unmetered activities MAY be shaped to wholesale speeds of 256Kbps between the hours of 6pm & 11pm daily, such as peer to peer traffic, uploads & downloads to cloud storage platforms, PC & smartphone operating system updates, software & gaming updates & internet activity related to applications which nbn cannot identify.

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Refer to the BIRRR Guide on How To Choose an nbn Provider

LINKS TO PROVIDERS OFFERING SM+ PLANS:  

SM+ is OPTIONAL, standard Sky Muster plans are still available from your provider (see the BIRRR Standard Plan comparison here) .  Not all providers will offer SM+ plans, customers must place an order for a SM+ plan, it is not automatic, you may have several hours of downtime with your internet service whilst being transferred to a plus plan. Plus plans will reset on the 1st of each month. Please note that upgrading plus plans mid-cycle is currently not supported by any provider. 

NB: The ability to add top-up data blocks should be available by mid-May 2020

NBN Fair Use Policies apply to SM+, to ensure the finite satellite capacity is responsibly shared among users.

If you already have a nbn Sky Muster installation, SM+ plans do not require any additional equipment, in most cases you can use the equipment you already have.

BIRRR will continue to work with nbn regarding the wholesale pricing of SM+, with this in mind end-users should be careful of signing up for lengthy contracts in case nbn change the wholesale price in the future.

SM+ is only available on the 25/5Mbps speed tier, but does have the ability to speed burst, subject to network availability.

How was this developed?

BIRRR, along with other regional stakeholders have been discussing with nbn and the Federal Government ways to enhance the experience for Sky Muster users, to cater for the growth in data needs.  nbn has been actively looking at ways to optimise Sky Muster, and have spent time reviewing the usage of users.  After reviewing the data and conducting extensive research,  nbn determined that there is a way to deliver extra capacity on the satellites and thus the new SM+ product was developed. Enhancements to Plus have been worked on since it was launch in August 2019 and with the #COVID19 crisis have been announced sooner to help those who are now required to work and educate from home.

If you are a BIRRR member who has participated in one of our Facebook Polls or surveys, then you have contributed to some of this research.

ICPA, AgForce & BIRRR Meet with nbn Local

How will SM+ benefit me?

Based on the average user, it is estimated that approximately 70% of nbn Sky Muster Plus 2.0 usage will be unmetered  (from 1st April). However, this will vary depending on how each household or business uses the internet.

Will there be any changes to the peak and off-peak times on nbn SM+?

Off-peak times are not part of the SM+ consultation process, however BIRRR will continue to advocate for changes to the off-peak times on Sky Muster.

How else will nbn Sky Muster be enhanced to keep up with the growth in data usage?

BIRRR will continue to collaborate with nbn and the Federal Government on further enhancements to the nbn Sky Muster platform.  BIRRR is looking forward to future nbn announcements such as business satellite services and health and education products.

Will SM+ lead to congestion on the network?

No, SM+ plans should not lead to network congestion as the product is designed for nbn to better manage capacity.

Developed for BIRRR by Kristy Sparrow, in conjunction with nbn & updated 1/04/20

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider regarding your usage statistics, eligibility and best plans available.

 

Using PlayOn Desktop to Schedule Off Peak Video Downloads

What is PlayOn?

PlayOn Desktop is a program that allows you to schedule the download of movies and tv shows during Sky Muster ‘off peak’ data times. It is relatively cheap and very simple to use, you don’t have to be very tech savvy and its an excellent way to utilise your off-peak data that often goes unused.

What Do I Need?
You need an existing Netflix account or You Tube account to use PlayOn and a PC or laptop with Windows installed. Unfortunately PlayOn Desktop doesn’t work for Macs. 

BIRRR is currently researching the Play On Cloud app which works in a similar way on idevices, we will update when our research is done.

How Much Does it Cost?
PlayOn costs $4.99 USD per month or $30 USD annually or you can pay a one off lifetime membership charge of $69.95 USD. Prices do change regularly so check out current pricing on the Playon Website. Look into downloading a limited time trial, if you want to test the software without the commitment.

PlayOn charges are  an additional cost on top of your Netflix subscription. (Netflix AUS costs $9.99 per month for the basic package, which allows you to stream or download Netflix on 1 screen at a time in Standard Definition). Other plans are available, however it is not ideal to download from more than one device on Sky Muster. You may want to ‘trial’ Netflix for free for a limited time first.

How Does It Work? 

You can set your Play-On to record and download videos as .MP4 files during Sky Muster off-peak times.  PlayOn will start and end the recordings automatically. The recording works in a ‘streaming’ fashion. Meaning that if a movie is 3 hours long it will take 3 hours to record, and you can record up to 6 x 1 hour episodes of a TV series during your off-peak times. This means you can download up to 180 hours of movies and TV shows per month during your off peak time (subject to your data limits). This enables Netflix and You Tube to be more accessible to those on limited data connections.

PlayOn records during normal times too so if you find yourself at the end of your billing period with some leftover peak data and not enough time to use it up you can use PlayOn to record shows during peak times as well to use your data effectively.

How much data does it use?
You can easily adjust the quality of your recordings (similar to adjusting the streaming quality on your Netflix account), which will reduce the amount of data that is used per recording. However, I find anything less than Medium quality to be unwatchable and if you have a decent sized tv then you may want to stick to a High quality download setting.

Low Definition: reduced standard definition video quality, can use up to 300MB per hour.
Medium Definition: standard definition(SD) video quality, can use up to 700MB per hour.
High Definition: high definition(HD) video quality, can use up to 3GB per hour.

How to Watch?
Once you have downloaded your movies and TV shows there are multiple ways to watch them. You can use a streaming device (such as Chromecast) from your desktop, tablet or device. You can also put the files onto a USB or hard drive and plug that straight into your TV. If you have downloaded onto a laptop you can also use an HDMI to plug your computer directly into your TV.  Mirroring apps (try Googling one that is compatible with your TV and device) are also an easy way to watch.

Problems & Tech Support
PlayOn works really well the majority of the time. You can have issues where shows have not recorded properly or not at all (this can be from a minor Play-On glitch or a short Sky Muster outage or update). The program will flag the ones that failed to record overnight so you can add them to the queue to record next time.

PlayOn is a US based company so doesn’t offer phone based support in Australia, however there is a ‘tech support’ button in PlayOn settings which details problems and glitches and how to fix them.  PlayOn tech support can also be contacted via email.

How to Use?

  1. Create an account on the PlayOn website. (you will also need to have created a Netflix or YouTube account)
  2. Choose which payment option you want.
  3. Download the program to the computer you want to use (remember it is not compatible with Mac Computers)
  4. Follow the prompts as instructed.
  5. Once the PlayOn desktop program has downloaded go into settings and the ‘channels’ tab and enter your Netflix or YouTube logon and password details.
  6. In that same settings screen under the ‘General’ tab you can choose the quality of your download from HD to Low Quality as discussed above.
  7. Once this is set up you can go to the top right hand side of the screen and see an ‘off peak’ button. Click it to set up to record during off-peak times. You will need to enter your off-peak times in. PlayOn is very definite and only starts once the off-peak time has begun, it also won’t continue to record past the off-peak time you have set. e.g. If you have a 55 minute episode to record, but only 45 minutes of off-peak time remaining PlayOn will simply not record that episode (rather than record most of it or go over the specified time) and it will remain in the ‘Recording Queue’ until next time.
  8. Now the fun part. Click on the channels tab and choose the Netflix channel. Now you can choose whichever movies and tv shows you want to download. Once you have found what you want to record you will see the button on the far right of the show/episode description that says ‘record’. Click that and it will add it to your ‘Record Queue’ to be recorded during off-peak. You will have to click record for each episode of a series.
  9. Click on the ‘Record Queue’ button on the top right of the screen to see everything you have in your queue. You can change the record order etc from there if you want.
  10. Keep your computer turned on and connected to the internet overnight for the recordings to work (turn the volume down on the computer if you don’t want it annoying you through the night).
  11. You can see which recordings have downloaded successfully and which haven’t in the ‘new recordings’ and ‘failed recordings’ tabs on the left hand menu. Any ‘failed recordings’ you can just add to the ‘Record Queue’ again for next time and they will usually record successfully.  If you continue to get failed recordings or have other problems go to the ‘Help’ button at the bottom left of the screen.
  12. Sometimes when you open the PlayOn program you will get a screen that says ‘Server can’t be found’. Simply click the ‘Open Settings’ button and you will see a ‘Start/Stop Server’ button on the right of your settings. Click it and wait for the box to become green and say ‘Running’ and you are good to go. This happens often and is due to settings that don’t start the server automatically (to save data).

How to View
Refer to the How to Watch section above. You can open the PlayOn program to watch them, otherwise the recordings are also stored in a ‘Play-On’ folder in your Video files on your desktop. From that folder these can be transferred to a USB or hard-drive for viewing (and travel etc) if you want.

Check out Skymesh’s PlayOn hack article

Prepared for BIRRR by Sophie Parbury & Ben from SkyMesh.

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider regarding your eligibility and best plans available. Page updated 25/10/18.

nbn Fixed Wireless Congestion

What is Congestion ?

Congestion on a nbn Fixed Wireless connection can result in your service slowing down during peak time periods. nbn Fixed Wireless has a finite design capacity and when everyone wants to stream video (termed high concurrency) in the evening on a tower, that is close to design capacity, then some congestion will ensue.  nbn are working to ensure a minimum 6Mb/s peak time experience by the end of the 2018.  Other causes of congestion include too many users on a tower, how a providers CVC (the Connectivity Virtual Circuit) is managed or a tower in need of an upgrade.

Another key reason for slow nbn performance is your home equipment that is either supplied by your RSP or yourself. Contact your RSP to ensure that this equipment is best configured for your use.

NB: nbn Fixed Wireless congestion due to tower overload is NOT widespread. The vast majority of fixed wireless customers enjoy a congestion free experience.

Check out WhistleOut’s tips on how to speed up your connection here and the BIRRR Guide on how to troubleshoot your fixed wireless connection here

You can also try activating a second port on your service with a different provider, such as Aussie Broadband, to see if your service improves. Aussie Broadband will offer a no contract 30 day trial to enable you to see if your old provider has the congestion issue, or if the issue is with nbn.

Whirlpool Discussion on Fixed Wireless Congestion

Whirlpool List of Congested nbn Wireless Towers – please note this is only a guide to congested towers, that has been compiled from Whirlpool Users experiences.

If you are having issues with your nbn Fixed Wireless Service, your first point of contact should always be your provider.

If your provider does not get the issue resolved, in certain cases BIRRR (and providing you have tried to help by following the tips above) can escalate your issue, please complete this form:www.tinyurl.com/BIRRRnbnFWfault

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your RSP regarding your own connection issues.  Thanks to John Kitchener for assistance in compiling this document.   This page was updated on 17th July 2018.

Using PtP to relay nbn Fixed Wireless from a Farm Shed

This is our long story about over coming hills to get a nbn Fixed Wireless Connection!

We live on a farm between Ariah Park and Temora NSW. We are 9km from NBN tower in Ariah Park but have hills in between. My brother in law lives 1km from us which put him at 14km from a tower near Temora and us at 15km away. He was able to get NBN without an issue so we applied to get it. We had a technician come out and say we had strong signal from our roof so he set it all up. He said the green light would come on in a couple of hours and we would be set to go. It didn’t come on so we rang Telstra (our provider) who then rescheduled another visit by the same technician Of course we had to wait another week or two. The same technician came out and couldn’t work it out, said he would look into it and get back to us. We never heard back from him. We rang Telstra to get someone else out. They put us onto Skybridge (nbn installer company), we requested the same technician who put my brother in laws in.

So 2/3 weeks later he came out and he didn’t have any luck either. He said it is because we are past 14km from that tower (beyond nbn limits for Fixed Wireless). He said physically it was possible but NBN have gotten really strict with having to be within 14km from the tower. Another dead end. Telstra kept telling us we needed to go on satellite but we didn’t feel we would be any better off as we had friends who had a lot of trouble with it. Also because you still pay a high price for not a lot of data. We had upped our phone data and used hot spotting and shared data so we could get 45gb all up, which was never enough but much more than we used to get before we joined all our data together. Our kids were desperate for netflix like their cousins over the road!

We had a friend who knew a local technician who had bounced a signal off her in-laws, we got in contact with BIRRR and they told us to look into this. We knew it wouldn’t be ideal because we would have to share data with them (they have 6 kids) and it may slow down when we are all on it, this would have made us feel bad, as theirs is great now and we didn’t want to mess with their connection.

We contacted Michael, the local technician. He asked if we had a shed with power on our property that was within 14km from the tower. We had a tiny shed that had a pump in it and therefore power. It has to be waterproof and you need to put a cupboard in it to keep dust off. We needed to get the lot number from the rates- we rang the local council to get the lot number- they got on google earth and worked it out. Once we did this we could get an nbn location ID number (LOC ID) which Telstra needed to apply for NBN for us. This took a couple of weeks. It was then approved so Telstra scheduled a technician to come out a couple of weeks later.

We got our local guy Michael to come out the day before to make sure he would be able to bounce the signal from the small shed to our house (3km away). Of course, it wasn’t that simple as there were quite a few trees in the way.

Nina6Nina1Nina2
Michael suggested we put an antenna on our big machinery shed (100m from our house) to pick up the signal from the nbn NTD (in the small shed) then throw it to our house. So the plan was for NBN technician to come out the day after then Michael back the day after that to set up the booster. Again, that didn’t work out as the NBN technician needed a pole to put on the shed to get some more height, he didn’t have one with him (apparently they are supposed to) so once again we had to reschedule for a couple of weeks….so frustrating. We rang Michael to tell him what happened, he thought that was terrible as he should have had a pole with him so he rang Skybridge and asked if he can just do the install himself. Skybridge said that was fine. So Michael came the next day, installed the modem into a cupboard in the tiny shed, put a booster on our large machinery shed to throw the signal to the antenna he put on our house roof. This took two days and cost us over $3000.

We are really glad we didn’t take the easier option and go with satellite. We now get 1000gb for $80/month, the boys can get internet in the machinery shed, we have really fast internet and the kids can watch Netflix, so despite the hassles we had to go through for 5 months, it was worth it!!

Nina3Nina4   Nina5

Disclaimer: This document is meant as an informative document based on my own research and experience. Any views, opinions, information etc. provided is not necessarily the same as that provided by NBN Co, BIRRR, or any other organisation referred to here.  Prepared for BIRRR by Nina & Damien Gaynor.

Peel NSW PtP nbn Fixed Wireless & FTTN Shared with Neighbours

The idea of getting a NBN fixed wireless instead of satellite has been the driving force
behind this project. I had looked at many ideas in the early stages of getting better internet, long before NBN being rolled out, from relaying a link from son’s ADSL2 in Bathurst with a link of about 15km using a high hill in between with solar, but this was given the flick when nearby a NBN fixed wireless tower was being built, only to find out about 90% of Peel Village was shaded by a large hill between the new NBN tower and village, which included myself missing out on NBN fixed wireless.
How to go about getting a link was to use about 2km Wi-Fi link from a neighbour that was within a NBN fixed wireless line of sight of tower, I had already a few years before I brought a box of 5 Ubiquiti Nanobridges (NB-5G22) while I was thinking about a long link intoBathurst.
The neighbour’s property had problems with line of sight from his residence to my house, but his shed was just enough to get a good line of sight to my home with a 5hgz Wi-Fi link, so then it was a matter of cabling between neighbour’s house and shed which was about 55m of cable, looking at the time of lying the conduit it was decided to run 4 cables in the conduit (4 x 55m), using only using one cable but have capability of up grading the service to allow more upgrading. The cable that was decided to use was a underground rated Cat6 gel filled cable to aid in keeping moisture out of it at all cost. The cable will power the Nanobridge by Power over Ethernet, so no need to run a separate power cable. There was a small problem of a wash away some 1m deep and about 4 m wide that was solved by running a 6.5m heavy wall pipe across the gap with the conduit running continuously through it to avoid moisture entering the conduit.

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 9.34.05 AMScreen Shot 2018-01-27 at 9.34.14 AMScreen Shot 2018-01-27 at 9.34.25 AM

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View of Nanobridge from shed to my home about 2km away
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Junction box that has the spare cabling coiled inside for further upgrading

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After I had got the link up and running and being neighbourly I ask the question that all neighbours like to hear and that is do you want to get off Satellite Internet or Telstra Mobile internet, the answer was a sounding “Yes”. Knowing that the link was with a very directional when using Nanobridges that is capable for links up to 50km I wasn’t sure how well they would work when alignment was slightly out, but to my surprise they do work under short distances without problems.

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 9.38.57 AM
Nanobridge at my home
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Nanobridge at Neighbour
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Nanobridge at Neighbour
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Nanobridge at Neighbour
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Final layout of Nanobridge Links to 4 Neighbours
Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 9.39.40 AM
Original NBN Fixed Wireless map of Peel

 

The choice of which Wi-Fi gear to use is up to your personal choice, the Ubiquiti Nanobridges are a bit of an over kill for something like this link but as I had already had them there was no point in re buying something else that could have done the job just as well. There are quite a few internet calculator links that can used to work out the links if it is possible, but I used the Ubiquiti Outdoor Calculator.  When using the Ubiquiti gear the main Nanobridge on the shed is set to be an “Access Point” and the 4 residences are set to “Stations”. This is only a guide of what is possible if you have the time to do as much as possible yourself. With 5 residences with kids using the NBN Fixed Wireless at a speed of 25/5 we all have Netflix. Total data use is approx. 700 to 800 GB a month and increasing.

 

UPDATE 6/7/17 Changing PtP from Fixed Wireless to FTTN

Wifi bridge going in to replace the existing bridge that will change our speed from nbn fixed wireless speeds to nbn fttn speeds of 100 mb with a 18.25km bridge from Bathurst to Peel village. 400w of solar running on a 24v setup running 6 x 12v x 7ah batteries with a total watt/hours of about 500.

19274907_10209731254337720_3902871543447459630_n19702462_10209731254537725_3287906403944675996_n19884345_10209731253857708_2956419960519180951_n19702065_10209731253537700_4406111137749633362_n19756649_10209731254137715_8521376030115093860_n

 

19731968_10209731253417697_1570492534766246140_n
3.2mm stainless steel cable

You can read more about Ross’s FTTN PtP on the BIRRR Facebook Page

 

Disclaimer: This document is meant as an informative document based on my own research and experience. Any views, opinions, information etc. provided is not necessarily the same as that provided by NBN Co, BIRRR, or any other organisation referred to here.  Prepared for BIRRR by Ross Mitchell. For further enquiries email:  rosspeel@gmail.com 

VoWIFI or WIFI Calling

VoWIFI or WIFI Calling is currently supported by the Telstra, Optus and Vodafone networks. It allows you to make and receive calls with a compatible mobile phone using your home internet (you don’t need mobile coverage).

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To turn WIFI Calling on for an iPhone, go to Settings, Phone, and switch the toggle to WiFi calling on. You may have to update Carrier Settings for this feature to be visible.

What is VoWIFI or WIFI calling?
VoWIFI enables voice calls (incoming and outgoing), MMS and SMS over a WiFi network. VoWIFI is available if you have a compatible plan, a compatible device, you are connected to a supported^ WiFi network and your mobile network coverage is poor or non-existent.

  1. * For Telstra customers, VoWiFi traffic (data) is not charged to your Telstra internet account.
  2. ^ Almost any home or business WIFI network will support VoWiFi. It is important that the WIFI signal is strong, so keep the phone relatively close to your WIFI router. The quality of your internet connection must be sufficient to support VoWiFi calls.

There are four key pre-requisites for VoWiFi.

  1. Your phone must support VoLTE or Voice over LTE. This technology enables voice calls over 4G networks. Until recently voice calls were carried over the 3G network and prior to that over the 2G network. VoLTE delivers some great improvements to voice calling. You can experience faster call connection times compared to 3G and you may talk and browse at the same time. VoLTE voice calls are high definition (HD) for sharp, clear call quality. See the carrier links below for details on enabling the VoLTE feature.
  2. With the exception of approved Apple smart phones, your approved mobile phone must be supplied by Optus for the Optus WIFI calling service and Telstra for the Telstra VoWiFi service. See the Carrier links below for details on enabling the VoWiFi feature, and when it may become available on other smartphones.
  3. Mobile Phones supporting VoWiFi are currently limited, but slowly expanding (see details of approved phones below).
  4. You must ensure that the latest software is loaded on your mobile phone. How to make sure your iPhone is up to date, check here and Samsung is here 

What is the Cost? There are no additional mobile network charges for WiFi Calling. Your calls and messages will be charged as per the rates of your existing mobile plan.

VoWiFi (WIFI calling) voice calls use approximately 3.8MB of internet data for a 5 minute call.

Suitable handsets and supporting plans 

Telstra – Post Paid and Prepaid plans
Samsung Galaxy s6 and newer – full list here
iPhone 6 Plus and newer – full list here
Latest information from Telstra WiFi calling is here,  and for Telstra WiFi SMS is here, including how to set it up on your phone.

Whirlpool Telstra Wifi Calling Wiki

Optus – Post Paid plans only
Galaxy S7 Edge and newer, iPhone SE and newer
Latest information from OPTUS is here

Vodafone Post Paid Plans Only

Currently, it’s only available to customers on a postpaid mobile plan with selected Wi-Fi Calling compatible devices. Latest information from Vodafone WiFi calling is here, including compatible devices

Tip – Be close to your router, turn airplane mode on if you have some small amount of mobile coverage.

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your provider regarding WIFI Calling.  Thanks to BIRRR member  John Kitchener for compiling this document.  

Jostin’s nbn non Standard Fixed Wireless Story Using PtP link

Pre-Planning Investigations for nbn Fixed Wireless
After reading about the experiences of others with Fixed Wireless NBN non-standard installations on BIRRR and the Whirlpool Forums, I began investigating our own non-standard installation. The main challenge being that a corner of the property was included in the fixed wireless coverage however the house was located approximately 6 kilometres away with no direct line of sight. Further to this, the location where I wanted to install the NBN FW receive station was outside of the NBN FW coverage map despite having direct line-of- sight to the NBN tower. I provided the RSP with the
following:
 The direct line-of- sight photograph Photo 1 (Large) - Copy
 A Ligowave link simulation report including all required parameters (including not being centred within the sector on a tower that did not have 360 degree coverage).
 A mock-up of the enclosure for the FW NTD

Photo 2 (Large) - Copy
 Some possible structures that it could be installed (old unused water tank, old cottage, etc) and the installation address.
The installation was accepted, and the real work commenced.
Installation – FW NBN Receive Station
A day before the scheduled installation, the installer phoned to confirm directions and I took the opportunity to ask what he knew about non-standard installations, “never heard of them” was the response. I briefly explained the situation and he agreed to come and check it out. I also printed out a heap of examples and information, mostly from the BIRRR website just in case some non-standard installation education was required (in the end it wasn’t).
I arrived on-site before the NBN installer and rolled out my Version 1 equipment/install.

Photo 3B (Large) - Copy

Photo 3A (Large) - Copy

  • 250W panel (second hand grid connect panel).
  • 12V lead acid battery – 100Ah AGM; mounted inside a cheap Bunnings toolbox mounted to the wall using some Bunnings L-brackets.
  • A weatherproof enclosure housing:
    • Victron 75/15 MPPT charge controller (for charging battery).
    • 12V to 240V inverter (Supercheap Auto – not visible in photo 1 as it is behind the
      panel and wired to the 240V GPO).
    • The router.
    • And of course, space for the NBN’s FW NTD.

The installer arrived and long story short:

  • Installer looked at the site and said it met all of the NBNCo’s requirements (power,
    weatherproof, to a structure). I know there is a lot of conjecture about exactly what these
    requirements actually are and I recognise his information may not be the NBN policy
    (whatever it is) but as he was the (sub) contracted representative his opinion was good
    enough for me. No need to give him the printed BIRRR examples.
  • Installer performed a signal test and he was somehow picking up two sectors.
  • Installer would not install the ODU onto my custom T-pole mount (see pictures) without first getting approval from Ericsson but said he could proceed with using the standard mount right away (the latter option was gladly taken!).
  • The NBN FW was completed and as it turns out; this was the easiest part getting our NBNFW!

PtP Relay Station (and UHF repeater)

An intermediate relay station would be placed centrally and elevated on the property with line of sight to both the NBN FW Receive Station and the House. It was also decided that this site would a house private UHF radio repeater.

Photo 10A (Large) - CopyPhoto 10B (Large) - Copy
The following items were sourced:

  • 15m lighting tower sourced from Gumtree. Photo 4 (Large) - CopyModifications were made to it including a base pivot point, 2x mounting points for the Ubiquiti radios at 8m elevation, and a UHF antenna mount at the 15m elevation.
Base Pivot Point
Base Pivot Point

 

 

 

Photo 6 (Large) - Copy
Mounting Points
  • A weatherproof enclosure (second hand) for housing the electrical and communications equipment.
  • A fabricated steel frame which would support the enclosure above, the solar panels and a toolbox (Masters liquidation special) to house the battery.

The tower foundation was installed using a 600mm auger with rock struck at 0.75m depth. Jackhammer was used to dig a further 0.75m; resulting in a total depth of 1.5m (of which 0.75m was into a 0.75m very strong, non-weathered rock). A rebar cage with anchor bolt template was placed into position and 0.5m 3 (1.2T) of 40MPa concrete was hand-mixed and placed. Because of the swing mechanism of the tower, the threaded rod anchors could not extend above the finished concrete level. The anchor bolt assembly and template was made up of 4x M24 Gr8.8 galvanised threaded rod terminated into M24 Hex Couplers with a ply spacer/template to set positions. Photo 7 (Large) - CopyThe equipment enclosure steel frame was also concreted into position.
A month later we returned to erect the tower. Equipment (details below) and cables were installed on the ground. Photo 8 (Large) - CopyConcrete screws (Ramset Ankascrew) were used to pin the base plate hinges to the foundation and the tower was then raised. Photo 9A (Large) - CopyPhoto 9B (Large) - Copy

Once raised, a few taps of a sledge hammer positioned the base plate holes precisely over the embedded hex couplers female threads, and the M24 bolts were installed securing the upright tower.
The following equipment was fitted out on the tower and enclosures:

  • 2x Ubiquiti Powerbeam M5 400 radios (with ISO reflectors but these are probably
    unnecessary).
  • 1x Ubiquiti ToughSwitch POE. This is powered directly from the battery output and the
    Powerbeam/Toughswitch are not adversely affected by being powered directly from the 12V battery (which in practice fluctuates from 12.6V – 14.6V depending on the charge state).
  • 1x 12V lead acid battery – 300Ah AGM. As this battery weighs 76kg, a hand winch and swing arm were also installed to the enclosure mounting frame to make removal and replacement easier.
  • 2x 250W solar panels (grid-connect type). Ample power generation capacity with a
    philosophy that this would provide sufficient power to recharge the battery to 100% even on the cloudiest of days.
  • 1x Victron 100/30 MPPT Charge Controller – for charging battery.
  • 1x Raspberry Pi 2 with Victron’s Venus GX software installed to remotely monitor the Victron charge controller and provide live battery voltage status. This was powered by a USB Charger.
  • Cooling fan and LED strip lights were also installed within the enclosure.
  • As the site also includes a UHF repeater – the receive radio, transmit radio and UHF duplexer were also installed.
  • Ubiquiti Surge Protectors were installed for the Powerbeams.

 

Photo 11 (Large) - CopyPhoto 12 (Large) - Copy   Photo 13 (Large) - Copy
Upgrade of NBN FW Receive Station for PtPtP usage
An Ubiquiti Powerbeam M5 400 was installed and mounted to the T-pole mount I had fabricated. An additional 250W solar panel was added as I felt I may have undersized the 12V battery (only 100Ah). By adding this panel, I ensured that even on the cloudiest of days, the battery is still reaching 100% charge. The 12V-240V inverter was removed and replaced with a Victron 12/12 DC- DC Converter to power the NBN FW NTD providing a regulated constant 12V output even when the voltage from the battery fluctuates from 12V-15V (as the charge state varies).
A cheap Netgear WNDR2000v5 router (which is also powered by the Victron 12/12) has been added since the photos were taken. This was done to separate the routing hardware, make remote web- based management simpler and resulted in improved network performance.

Photo 14A (Large) - Copy
Completed installation  (T-pole mount with space for NBN FW ODU but did not end up
using it)

Photo 14B (Large) - CopyPhoto 15 (Large) - CopyPhoto 16 (Large) - Copy

Battery enclosure & Inside enclosure.
Tips & Lessons Learned
Some tips based on my experience (some are pretty obvious but caught me out):

  • When you have 2x Ubiquitis at the same location (even if they are pointing in completely different directions with ISO reflectors), ensure you manually assign the link channel so that no part of the frequency overlaps with that of the adjacent radio (e.g. a 5800Mhz with 40Mhz will spread from 5780-5820Mhz so the adjacent radio would need to be set at 5840Mhz). Using the AUTO channel setting will not achieve the required separation.
  • On the rare occasion, the Ubiquiti radios go non-responsive and require a power reset;
    which is an inconvenience for remote installations. Fortunately the software on the Ubiquiti radio (AirOS) and ToughSwitch (EdgeOS) include a Watchdog feature which allows the radio to send a ping to an IP address and if no reply is received after a certain period of time, the radio will reset itself. In the case of the ToughSwitch, the power will be removed from the POE port forcing a power cycle reset of the connected radio.
  • Remote monitoring and control feature has been installed to make fault finding very
    efficient (most of the time it can be done remotely). The Ubiquiti Network Management
    System (UNMS) has been installed which provides internet based monitoring (so the system can be seen from both the house side and the internet side.
Photo 17A - UNMS overview (Large) - Copy
UNMS
dashboard

Web-based remote management (with Dynamic DNS) has been enabled for the
Router and ToughSwitch (using port forwarding) allowing further web-based monitoring and control.

Photo 17B - Victron battery monitor (Large) - Copy
Victron Data

Victron data is uploaded to Victron’s VRM servers allowing live and historic data of the solar charge controller and battery voltage.

I used lead acid AGM batteries and these can provide a reasonably long service life providing you do only discharge to about 20% depth of discharge. When these reach the end of their life, I will likely replace with LiFePO4 type 12V battery. These allow you to discharge much more deeply therefore you can use a smaller, lighter and less total capacity battery while achieving the equivalent usable capacity. Although they have a higher upfront cost, I suspect the lifetime cost will be less (but if you do this don’t forget to edit the charge controller settings to suit the battery type). When the time comes for replacement I will do some more precise power usage measurements with a shunt and size accordingly. Based on the data collected from the charger/voltage monitoring I’m using about 30Ah overnight at the Relay Station. I would estimate that the NBN FW station uses about 20Ah overnight. The 500W of solar at each site would have no have no trouble returning these to 100% every day.
Conclusion
This turned out to be a much bigger job than originally anticipated. Everything was that little more difficult because the hill relay site was very steep only accessible by ATV and large tractor/bulldozer.
The overall cost was approximately $8,000 for equipment and materials; and this figure does not include labour or plant (which fortunately for us was no cost). The end result is a low latency connection getting 43 Mbps down & 17 Mbps up.

Photo 18 (Large) - Copy

Unfortunately there is some congestion impacting us at either the RSP or NBN level, which depending on the time of day will range between 20-38 Mbps. Nevertheless, it is a drastic improvement over the previously connected IPstar satellite system and hopefully it proves to be a reliable network connection well into the future.

Disclaimer: This document is meant as an informative document based on my own research and experience. Any views, opinions, information etc. provided is not necessarily the same as that provided by NBN Co, BIRRR, or any other organisation referred to here.  Prepared for BIRRR by Jostin Meekels.

 

 

 

 

 

BIRRR Submission to the Telecommunications Reform Package

Department of Communications and the Arts: Telecommunications Reform Package

Submission by Better Internet for Rural, Regional & Remote Australia (BIRRR)

3rd February, 2017

Prepared by: Kristy Sparrow and Julie Stott

Contributions from John Kitchener and Amanda Salisbury

 

* This submission was prepared in good faith by a voluntary team. Please address any queries to birrraus@gmail.com

BIRRR Response to Productivity Telecommunications USO Draft Report

 

BIRRR Submission to the Productivity Commission DRAFT Telecommunications

Universal Service Obligation (TUSO) Report (January, 2017)

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Prepared by: Kristy Sparrow and Rebecca Gowen

Contributions from John Kitchener, Rod Hoare, Julie Stott, Matt Wilkinson, Malcolm Moore Amanda Salisbury & Rachel Hay.

* This submission was prepared in good faith by a voluntary team. Please address any queries to birrraus@gmail.com

This full submission contains material supplied in confidence and as such an edited version has been placed on this website.

 

BIRRR nbn™ Fixed Wireless Success Stories

Much of our volunteer time at BIRRR Headquarters is taken up troubleshooting people who live ‘just outside’ nbn™ fixed wireless ‘purple’ coverage areas.  Here are some of the stories from people we have helped to get fixed wireless.

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Sample of BIRRR Success Story, who lived outside ‘purple coverage area’

Amanda :  Huge difference to us. No drama streaming Netflix, Xbox Live etc etc during school holidays. Now back at school have SKYPEd with tutors able to read children’s work sheets from video, easily downloaded lesson material during actual lesson! Husband can work easily from home. Haven’t come close to monthly limit. Not too mention cost – have no idea what we were spending on internet with recharges for mobile broadband. Kids can log into school portals no problems. Can do research for assignments from home. I can access bank first go. The list is endless.

Emma:  It’s been awesome to have faster internet, I don’t have to avoid using several devices at a time. Emails with attachments send so quickly and uploading files (I am studying online so do a fair bit of both). I’ve had an issue with the nbn™ speed being much slower the last week or so than what it initially was but it’s still at least twice as fast as what we had before even when it’s running ‘slow’. We have a higher data allowance for a better price due to not being restricted to Telstra. Our allowance wasn’t low before, but it’s now more than double what we had before and for a lower price. No longer having to pay home phone line rental just to have internet as well (changed over to voip). I went so crazy downloading last month – we watched full series of at least 3 different tv shows (probably about 15 seasons between all the shows watched), I downloaded xbox games, a heap of stuff on the computer and a lot of browsing and watching videos with everyone home for a few weeks. I didn’t even get to half our allowance!

Yolande:  Financially we are saving $30 a month just on our Internet bill (plus actually getting decent service for our money) not to mention not using additional data on our phones. kids have only just gone back to school but no doubt having internet for whole month instead of running out after 1-2 weeks will help them with their school work. Suppose you could say has also helped family relationships as no fights over who used all the data lol. Must say hardly most important issue given people struggling to run businesses etc but it was nice to have decent internet over school hols so kids could watch movies etc things they could never do on mobile broadband so b i suppose there has been a social benefit as well. It is just nice to feel like part of the modern world again cant you thank you enough for your help.

Kain: Much better. Higher speeds, less latency, cheaper, bigger data allowances. Much more stable connection than the mobile broadband. Average speed now is 22 down 4 up. Video streaming is actually possible now, and the data lasts the whole month. You can read more about Kain’s story here.

Barb:  Yes thank you Kristy. I’m finding nbn™ fixed wireless with SkyMesh way better than the crap local provider service I’d had to battle with previously – the crap service where speeds varied down to dialup , data would be used without being used and their solution to any problem was to blame the customer.

Margie: Cost saving I would say is the biggest positive in  wireless NBN. We have house phone and internet in one. Speeds, data allowance, clear phone line 100% plus advantage of NBN. ( South Burnett – north Nanango)

Chris:  A Great Leap Forward. Haven’t saved any money yet (Telstra won’t let us out of our contract) but having a good data allowance from Aussie Broadband is wonderful. We can run our business, communicate with our friends, and have much lower stress levels about going over our data limit. When the grandkids come to stay they are happy too. Thank you BIRRR !! (We are in South Gippsland, Vic).  You can read more about Chris’ Story here.

Lisa:  Kristy your help has made a huge difference to us. After being told countless times we couldn’t get nbn™ your request for a desktop study changed everything!! We had wireless broadband with Telstra. We were hooked up to nbn™ 2 weeks ago! Speed is about the same and this one drops out much more but the cost saving is enormous, over $1500 a month! We were trying to run our farm business, our business in Sydney all on 25gb. We had to keep adding data packages which meant we were spending at least $1800 every month. Plus I do the marketing for a charity in town and I have to manage their website and social media. The whole thing was a nightmare!  Not saving money yet as had to pay out Telstra but we will soon. Can’t thank you enough.

Narelle:  Huge difference to us. Tv reception is shocking so we are now able to stream, Netflix and iview got quite a workout during the holidays. I’m returning to study to complete a Masters through Distance Ed, could not have done this without fixed wireless, cost would have been crazy.  A lot of Ag research done on line now, great for our business My daughter is able to do Reading Eggs at home now as well as at school. They are about to start maths seeds, which is a similar programme, we can do this at home as well without me worrying about the cost of data. We actually feel like it has had a big impact on our life, much more than we originally thought it would have. Large data allowance for a fraction of what we were paying and a lot more stable service. Very few drop outs compared to mobile internet. Thanks to Kristy and BIRRR!  We live in the Wimmera in Victoria.

Ku:  It’s been life changing. My son can easily access his school work through CDSE. We have better access for my research and work as well as managing our business. Amazing. All for significantly less cost. Thanks Kristy!! Near Rockhampton.

Helen:  Huge positive difference! 5 x the data for the same cost, good speeds and reliable/stable connectivity mean that our entire family benefit but especially our farm business. We are so amazed at the difference and hugely grateful and appreciative of the service we now have. It was a long, frustrating road to get there, and it would not have happened at all without Kristy and BIRRR 😀

Julie:  It has made a HUGE difference to our lives I can now down load emails and and my children can access it for homework!! It works out cheaper because I get 300+% more down load we are even getting to enjoy movies I can’t thank you enough Kristy for what you did for us !!
Linda:  Wow it is unbelievable the difference your assistance has made Kristy. We have been connected for just over 2 months with every services we could get. NLIS transfers and BAS lodgements take minutes. Netflix Stan Presto Foxtel iq3 not having to worry about being shaped is amazing. Kids have no issues with studies or online gaming. The cost savings are huge. Now just need to have Telstra allow users to share the some of their data limit with remote users.

Beck:  Kristy helped us get NBN, when we’d previously been told we couldn’t get enough reception. Between Mark Moore and Kristy, we were able to get it sorted and without their help, it just would not have happened! Previously we were on NGW and mobile broadband. $300+ per month minimum. My son had been doing BSDE in semester 1 2015 and poor reception and increasing frustration trying to connect and lodge assignments certainly added to the decision to change to local state school (which has luckily worked out!). Aside from this, the actual business of running a farm was so difficult – emails may or may not send or load, forms couldn’t be downloaded, the spinning “loading” internet wheel would drive us mad! And forget trying to download/watch a movie, music, videos etc, it just wasn’t worth it. Things are now so much improved – internet banking works without cutting out, emails flying in and out (and load!), we can watch YouTube and video links easily and even complete surveys! And the added advantage of being able to watch shows via Presto, iview etc has been great, especially with 3 generations in the one house with very different viewing habits lol. Additionally we have nearly halved our phone bill monthly which is a massive benefit. Sorry for such a long reply but it was too hard to summarise the benefits and to express what a change BIRRRA and Mark, and particularly Kristy have made! We are approx. 45km from Kingaroy.

 

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Example of BIRRR Success Story – outside of ‘purple zone’ and now connected to fixed wireless.

Jenni:   Yes definitely. cheaper and much more data, also think its faster. Great result, worth all the phone calls and hassles I had. Thanks so much to BIRRR helpers.

Patricia:  We had been requesting a test for nearly 2 years just for the testing, when I phoned I always tried to explain the position etc but the last answers were we failed the computer test, I phoned at least every month, the staff were always lovely and patient, but I could not get past the computer test. 2 weeks ago I private messaged you regarding our position within 2 hours of my message you PMed me and the local contractor phoned me, I was amazed how quick you got things moving. The contractor came 2 days later and tested the reception and BINGO he picked up 3 signals, one being -82% which is very good indeed……The plan we have gone with includes 500 gb data telephone calls to local, national and mobiles…….$119.00 p/m incredible…we were paying $100.00 for 15 gb mobile broadband and $45 p/m for home line for only local and national calls……I am a Web Designer, my husband is an entertainer, the documents we have to send and receive are large. Having this will be a huge difference.We will be looking forward to Netflix and other wonderful services. Another is I have started free workshops at Nanango for digital devices this will help me downloads tutorials etc for the students….This would not of been achieved without the assistance of Better Internet For Rural, Regional And Remote Australia (BIRRR) and especially Kristy.
Michael:  We have only been connected for a couple of days but the process was almost seamless and the using the Fixed Wireless is far superior to anything else we have used. With our usage, and once the old services are cancelled we will save in the vicinity of $140.00/month. Thanks again to the BIRRR team especially Kristy 🙂

Alan:  Thanks to Kristy and BIRRR, my family now has nbnfixed wireless. Cannot thank you more then enough.. Originally outside the ‘purple’ area with my only option looking forward was sky muster but ended up with a signal strength of 87db two foot off my roof peak. BIRRR opened doors to the nbn™ that my phone calls couldn’t. 🙂

Colin: Thanks to these ladies of BIRRR (Kristy & Julie)  I just had one of my customers connected Yesterday to Fixed Wireless nbn™ that had been failed before as not in the coverage area. He is now connected & loving the speed around 19Mbps.

nbn™ even blogged about our success stories – you can read about it here

BIRRR Success stories taken from the BIRRR Facebook Group 24/4/16

 

How to find your Latitude and Longitude using Google Maps

Google Maps is a web application that allows users to find and search for locations, get directions, and view street view maps using a scalable, virtual map interface via their browser. The service is powered by high-resolution satellite images, allowing users to zoom in on maps, sometimes down to street level, through the Street View feature.
This article provides details for how to get longitude and latitude for any given location using Google Maps. Your co-ordinates will offer the best information for nbn™ and your service provider to locate you.
1. Go to https://www.google.com.au/maps/

Google Maps2.  Enter the city, town, country, address, or other location you want to find the longitude and latitude for and click the “Search Maps” button.

 

google maps 2

 

A red marker is placed on the map, pinpointing the location you have entered.

3. Right-click the red marker or a surrounding area and select the “What’s here?” option from the context menu.

 

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4.  A pop up appears with the location latitude and longitude displayed. This will also drop a grey arrow marker on the map.

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5.  Left click on the latitude and longitude. The side panel displays the details of the location.

 

google maps 56.   Copy and paste details as required from the side panel.

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider, regarding your own addressing issues.

Prepared  for BIRRR by John Kitchener 24/4/2016

nbn Sky Muster Educational Port ?

An nbn Sky Muster Education Port is a dedicated port in the nbn modem (NTD), specifically designed for distance education and home school students (preschool, primary & secondary) who are mapped to receive nbn Sky Muster. The port enables each eligible student to access a set amount of data for education (50GB per student, limited to 150GB per Sky Muster NTD).

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Who can access the port, what is the cost & how do I apply?

Each state department of education decides on eligibility requirements for the nbn Sky Muster Educational Port and how it is delivered.  

QUEENSLAND & SOUTH AUSTRALIA

In QLD & SA the end-user (YOU) is responsible for the ordering and payment of the education port (you are eligible for a subsidy to help subsidise the cost of internet).  You place an order with your choice of provider and your choice of plan/cost (you may need to provide a Student ID number from your child’s school). If you are a QLD Home School Family you will need your Student ID number and can order an education port direct with your chosen provider.

Please note, Education Ports can take several weeks to be approved.

QLD broadband internet subsidy: An annual payment of $500 to eligible students to assist with provision of broadband internet access.  Available to students currently enrolled at a State School of Distance Education for a minimum of 6 months continuous enrolment.

NEW SOUTH WALES & WESTERN AUSTRALIA

In other states the Department of Education organise the connection and payment (NSW & WA), you need to contact the school regarding an Education Port.

In Western Australia (updated 29/8/18):

  • Primary Students must be enrolled in a School of the Air (any one of 5 schools at Kalgoorlie, Meekatharra, Carnarvon, Port Hedland or Kimberley).
  • Secondary Students must be enrolled in the School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) – these students must request access, as it is not automatically offered.
  • Once enrolled, the school Principal will request and pay for an NBN satellite service through the Department’s Customer Service Centre. The service is ordered by the Department’s Information and Communications Division through the RSP (Clear Networks).
  • The nbn Sky Muster service is fully funded the Department.

NORTHERN TERRITORY, TASMANIA & VICTORIA

There is no subsidised port available (VIC, NT & TAS).

Is an Education Port the best type of Sky Muster plan for me?

If you are home-schooling or educating via distance education in QLD, SA, VIC, TAS & NT, you may like to investigate an nbn Sky Muster Plus Plan.

nbn Sky Muster Plus Plans would provide your student/s with:

  • unmetered data for schooling, things like Blackboard, emails, Dropbox, One Drive, web browsing, video conferencing + more etc are unmetered (they don’t count in your usage & are never slowed).
  • a data allowance for metered content, things like You Tube, Tik Tok, Netflix, Stan, Kayo e.t.c (video streaming & VPN).
  • a speed burst

BIRRR advise is to analyse your current data use on your Education Port and look at switching to a small Plus plan (either 25GB or 50GB depending on the number of children in your classroom), the majority of your children’s schooling requirements will be UNMETERED and therefore PLUS represents better value for money than an Education Port for QLD, SA, VIC, TAS & NT users.

NB: nbn estimate on average that 70% of your current usage will be unmetered, this is likely to be higher for current ed. port accounts.

Service Providers offering Education Port Plans (as at 31/08/18)

These providers DO NOT Offer Educational Port services: Bordernet, iinet, Westnet, Southern Phone

NB: Although nbn Fair Use Policies will be ‘relaxed’ for the educational port, it will be up to the providers to have the final say on the types of plans offered, this includes costs and data limits.

What equipment will I need ?

Please refer to the BIRRR Preparing for Sky Muster document.

Google Cloud Print (or similar) allows you to print to a central printer if you have more than one port operational on your nbn Sky Muster connection.

What if I have a separate school room ?

If your school room is located close to your house or within your house, you will be able to access the education port on your home nbn Sky Muster installation.

You have one port on the NBN NTD (the nbn modem) for your education port and use another port for your personal use – i.e. you will have TWO plans and may need TWO routers.

Alternatively your RSP may offer you a combined plan for private and educational use over the same port using the same router and plan. RSPs do have the ability to offer combined plans. You need to check with your RSP

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However if your school room is located a considerable distance from the home connection this will require a separate ‘Location ID’ to be raised with NBN and it will be subject to nbn approval. This 2nd Sky Muster connection can have ONLY the education service activated.  This will be determined on a case by case basis by nbn. If you have more than 1 habitable house on your property, each residence is entitled to a Sky Muster™ installation.

You can have a Sky Muster service that has only 1 port provisioned and this port can be JUST the educational port (this will be the case for school rooms located some distance from the home NTD) and will be determined by nbn on a case by case basis.

See more details in our Preparing for Sky Muster document and the nbn Education Services End User Guide

How did the Education Port come about ?

Late in 2015 the Federal Government set nbn the task of developing a dedicated port for education for use with the new nbn Sky Muster Satellite.

nbn worked with State and Territory education departments to develop an Educational Port’  which is delivered over a dedicated port at the remote user’s home via Sky Muster. This port was designed specifically for distance education and home schoolers, however future uses could include health and emergency services. You can read more about the announcement here.

What is the Distance Education Working Group?

In 2015 the Government established a Distance Education Working Group consisting of the Federal Department of Communications and Department of Education, executives from nbn Satellite team, Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (ICPA),  and State and Territory Education Departments. The Distance Education Working Group was formed after a BIRRR discussion with Paul Fletcher who was then the Parliamentary Secretary to the Communications Minister of the time (Malcolm Turnbull). The group meets to discuss how to best meet the needs of remote students. You can read more about the need for such a group here.

* Prepared for BIRRR by Kristy Sparrow, images by BIRRR members & John Kitchener. Updated 19/08/2020. For further details please check with your education department and provider.

Preparing For nbn™ Sky Muster™

Are you ready for Sky MusterTM 

Once you have ordered your Sky Muster service (with your provider) the below steps will walk you through how to prepare for your installation.  You can check out the nbn Guide on How to prepare for your Sky Muster Installation here.

The BIRRR article below will also help you cover the bases, including:


SATELLITE DISHES

Q: Who will co-ordinate this part of install?  A: nbn, via your chosen ISP (provider)

Most Sky Muster dishes are more compact than earlier satellite installations and more like a large Foxtel dish.  Customers don’t have much control over dish installation – nbn will allocate (at the time of order) which dish your premises will get, determined for your location – although you can suggest to installer WHERE generally on the roof might suit your office setup most.

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Example of Sky Muster Satellite Dish

There are three sizes of dish; 80cm, 120cm and 180cm; and two transmitters’ (TRIA’s); a 3W and a 6W. That makes six possible combinations. Well over 90% of premises will get the 80cm/3W combination.

The three dishes have different mounting capabilities. The 80cm can go on a wall, on a tin roof or on the gutter of a tile roof. The 120cm can go on a wall or on a tin roof. The 180cm is a pretty special size that won’t be used much, but it’s a non-penetrating ground mount.


NTD (nbn connection box) INSTALLATION

Who will co-ordinate this part of install?  A: nbn, via your chosen ISP (provider)

This schematic of a typical Sky MusterTM installation shows the NTD and a WIFI router. The installer is responsible for installing the dish on your roof and the nbn (NTD) box in your house.  They are NOT responsible for connecting your router and home network.

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RETHINKING YOUR HOME NETWORK

Q: Who you will deal with?  A: your chosen ISP (provider) and nbn installer

The Sky MusterTM installation may be an opportunity to rethink how your existing home network is configured and where the key equipments are located.

  • Is your current modem in the best location?
  • Is it handy to your WIFi router?
  • Where is your printer?
  • Is the WIFI router in the best location to provide coverage throughout your home?

BASIC FACTS to keep in mind:

– The provisional maximum cable distance from the Sky MusterTM satellite dish to the Network Termination Device (NTD) is 50m.

– The nbn™ standard practice is to wall mount the Sky MusterTM NTD to keep it out of the way of damage, tripping hazard etc.

– The NTD must be adjacent to a power socket.

– A special blue coloured, single coaxial cable from the dish will terminate at a wall plate.

– The Sky MusterTM NTD consumes around 40W continuous and is quite warm/ hot to the touch.

NB More details are available in the nbn™ Sky Muster User Guide

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ROUTERS

Q: Who you will deal with?  A: Your ISP (provider) and if necessary your IT expert

See the BIRRR document on Sky Muster Routers

*Before making changes to your home network, always talk to your provider and follow their advice.


 

ADDING A VOICE OVER INTERNET PROTOCOL (VOIP) SERVICE TO SKY MUSTERTM

Q: Who you will deal with?  A: Your ISP (provider)

See the BIRRR document on Voice Services over Sky Muster.

You should keep your existing landline as this service will continue to be maintained for Sky Muster customers as part of the Universal Service Obligation. You may find that keeping the landline for incoming calls only and using VoIP for outgoing calls may be a useful cost benefit compromise. Two phone services for less than the price of one.


 

SKY MUSTER ‘EDUCATIONAL’ NTD PORT.

Who you will deal with?  A: The Education Port on Sky Muster differs in each state, depending on your department of education policies.

A specific ‘education’ port is available for students who are home schooled or enrolled in an approved school of distance education.  Availability differs in each state. BIRRR advises you to check with your state’s Department of Education regarding your eligibility.

Additional routers and equipment may be necessary to access the education port.

Your RSP may assist with the initial service installation, router provisioning and equipment configuration. You will need a student ID to access the port.

Further information is available in the BIRRR Document What is an Educational Port.

 


*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider, regarding your Sky Muster connection and equipment needed. Updated 29/8/18

Jacob’s Story – Sharing Internet Connections with Neighbours

Sharing Internet Connections with a Wireless Bridge
by    Jacob Johnson

This document shows three different examples of how an enterprising BIRRR member has helped himself and others share internet connections via a WIFI link.

I have a fixed wireless connection and share to my neighbour who had a failed install 300m away through some thick trees. I also set up the same system between another two neighbours in the same situation. My speeds are slightly affected but only because we are sharing a single connection.  We did this because it was cheaper that way.  My neighbours don’t download anything just watch Netflix occassionally. The nbn NTD can support up to 75mbit so it is not a problem if both properties are on the 25/5 plans but you may experience slightly slower speeds if both were on a 50/20 plan downloading full speed.

  1.  A 300m 2.4Ghz WIFI link – nbn FIXED WIRELESS
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A newly installed nbn™ Fixed Wireless ODU with a Ubiquiti Nanostation attached to the Fixed Wireless mast.

MY HOUSE: This was originally a temporary mount for the Nanostation, but it appears to work perfectly with no interference; so it may stay! It is directed to the ‘clothes line’ Ubiquiti Nanostation shown below.

The picture above shows a newly installed nbn™ Fixed Wireless ODU and a Ubiquiti Nanostation attached to the Fixed Wireless mast. The Ubiquiti nanostation is used to transmit the Fixed Wireless connection over WIFI from this location

The Nanostation WIFI link connects to the ‘clothes line’ Ubiquiti Nanostation shown below.

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The clothes line Ubiquiti is connected via Ubiquiti tough cable running through a conduit to home.

NEIGHBOUR 1:

The clothes line Ubiquiti is connected via Ubiquiti tough LAN cable via underground conduit, to the home. The home roof was not suitable for the WIFI link as it had too many trees in the signal path and the clothes line was a cheap pole on which to mount the Nanostation.

The 2.4Ghz link is ~ 300m and the wireless receive signal level is 63dbm. That is an excellent result.

 

2.  A 350m 2.4Ghz WIFI link – nbn FIXED WIRELESS

NEIGHBOURS 2 & 3:

The next two photos show a link which shares fixed wireless between two of my neighbours. It passes through a grove of trees, but the signal is perfect. The house roof ones aren’t solar powered, a cat5 cable runs down into the house, into the poe port of the Ubiquiti power injector.

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The 2.4Ghz link distance is ~ 350m and the receive signal level is 65dbm.

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An excellent result.

3.  A solar powered 3G Installation and 2.5Km 5Ghz WIFI link – MOBILE BROADBAND

This WIFI link delivers internet from a solar powered 3G modem and router installed on an elevated ridge. Internet is beamed down to a site that has no mobile reception via a WIFI link.

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The 5Ghz link is ~ 2.5km and the receive level is 60dbm.

Prepared for BIRRR by Jacob Johnson & John Kitchener

Health Stories

Please note that the following stories were prior to nbn Sky Muster being available to regional users.

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ISSUES FACED:

* Slow internet speeds & unreliable connections
* Limited Data – most rural families are limited to 25GB of data/month
* Very expensive – Telstra Satellite customers pay $69 per GB
* Not being aware of options available

IMPACTS:
* People being unable to use Skype to connect to specialists, resorting to travelling thousands of kilometres for a 5 minute appointment.
* Telehealth services in smaller towns not working, people having to drive / fly for many hours for a simple xray
* Mental health web support sessions not available
* Emergency situations such as fire, flood, extreme weather events need adequate telecommunications – it is critical to be able to inform people of the dangers faced.
* Appointments missed or cancelled after arrival due to ‘city based’ ignorance of no mobile service in the bush.
* As there are no subsidies for mobile broadband antennas and boosters people are resorting to cheap ‘illegal’ boosters which has lead to emergency services being ‘blocked’ from communications, several deaths have been recorded as a result.

QLD: AMANDA: Just over a year ago, my world was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. While I did my best to face down this challenge with energy and focus, the sheer number of kilometres I have had to travel for specialist appointments, surgeries and treatment has been mind boggling. I estimate I have covered around 20 000 km in 12 months (something I accept as a trade-off for living where we do). A couple of my specialists have offered to Skype with me, to save at least a couple of 1000km round-trips. Unfortunately, our internet service is generally so slow and unreliable that it simply cannot support even a simple Skype-chat. You can read more about Amanda’s story on her blog Bush Babe of OZ –  The Shape of Bush Disconnection and Taking on The Data Drought.

QLD: SHELLY: At the Birdsville clinic, video conferencing is so unreliable that Shelly Dillon, 53, was forced to fly to Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, to see medical specialists every six weeks at a cost of $1200 per return journey. The mother of five, who is still recovering from a horrific quad bike accident at the iconic Big Red sand dune two years ago, said some of the consultations lasted just five to ten minutes. “It could be done at our own clinics if the internet was fast enough and we had the facilities to do a video conference with [the specialists],” she told the ABC 7.30 report.

 

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Images from 7.30 Report ABC

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QLD: TRACY: I keep harping on at Skype for medical appointments as it is really important in my life. I suffer from severe anxiety and depression and I Skype with my psychiatrist every three weeks to check in, alter medications etc. With out this I am very unwell, if I had to go see him every time it would be a 7-8 hour return drive plus. Skype for specialist appointments is essential for rural and remote people.

QLD: BEN: When 7.30 visited the clinic, Ben Leech, 27, arrived with a suspected broken finger but was told he would have to drive eight hours to Mount Isa to get an X-ray. “At the moment we don’t have that capability because of the internet,” Ms Macdonald informed him. ABC NEWS ARTICLE

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Image from 7.30 Report ABC

QLD: TAMMY: My son was enrolled in an online teens program for kids with social anxiety. After 3 sessions of the trial course we had to give it away as he couldn’t watch the videos or keep connected to finish his work. He desperately needed the tools in the course. As a single parent who has to drive her child too and from school it leaves no time to go to appointments if they are face to face, and my son misses crucial higher secondary classes. It is too far for us to consider trying to access programs like this which need a weekly commitment.

QLD: CHRISTIE: After long delays in trying to access a speech therapist for my daughter we were offered Skype sessions with a Brisbane based speech therapist. We tried this for several weeks however our Satellite connection gave us a very poor experience. When the nbn Fair Use Policy came into play we needed all of our ‘peak’ data just to complete distance education, so we are now unable to connect with a speech therapist due to poor speed and lack of data. We don’t have a speech therapist within a 4 hour drive from our property. We have considered moving so that my daughter can access these services. However my husband has lived here all his life and I don’t believe we should have to move just to be able to access an essential health service.

 

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Image from 7.30 Report ABC

NSW: CARLA: The lack of mobile service and the health professionals that are unaware of this issue has severely affected my family. Often specialists use texts to confirm appointments, even though they are told we have no mobile coverage. We have travelled thousands of kilometres for appointments only to be told that the specialist is sick (they notified us via text) or that because we didn’t confirm our appointment with a text reply, they had cancelled it. This wastes time and money and is extremely frustrating.

WA: CHRIS: “Mobile communications in a bushfire”
Lesson one. Stand on top of truck holding phone as high as possible. Check for text.
Lesson Two. Type text. Find a safe high position press send throw the phone high into the air.

Lesson two part two. Catch phone and check sent status. Repeat process to receive text.

Lesson three. Find the nearest high tree, carefully scale tree using DFES approved climbing technique. Constantly check for signal then send or receive.

Health 2

POOR MOBILE SERVICE RISKS LIVES IN EMERGENCIES

WA: KIM: Lack of mobile phone coverage recently put lives at risk and also contributed to the deaths of 4 people during the Esperance Fires. People needed to rely on word of mouth to warn neighbours because of poor communications. “Communication was a massive problem and it put people at risk,” he said. “Something has to be done about it. It has to be fixed.”

WA: SCOTT: Mr Wandel said the lack of mobile coverage was a big factor in people being caught unaware and driving into the fire. “We were not informed until the fire front had passed the northern edge of our property,” he said.

SA: KURT: Our local fire brigade which is also responsible for filling water bombing aircraft is desperate for reliable emergency communications. Both GRN (government radio network) and mobile phone reception is pathetic at the best of times. Our CFS shed has NO mobile phone or Internet coverage and if the fire truck is in the shed we have no radio communications to Adelaide Fire to report back to. The back up if the radio dies or there is no reception is the mobile phone and you guessed it, no mobile coverage!

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QLD: GIGI: I live on a cattle property just north of Mitchell, Qld. We are currently having Severe Weather warnings posted. Normally I would be able to keep an eye on where the storms are coming from via the local radar and also keep an eye on the lightening strikes through the storm tracker. But no, can’t even do that any more. We also can’t load the NAFI site to keep an eye on fires in the district, all of the above extremely life saving tools we can no longer access due to the deterioration of our internet.

NSW: MARCUS: Illegal boosters are causing huge issues in Regional Australia. Part of the reason these boosters are illegal is they interfere with emergency services and triple zero, we have heard that there is already one death that has been attributed to these illegal boosters where triple zero was unable to work and another under investigation.

QLD: JOAN: My partner lives 3kms from the ADSL cut-off point and as he is on Newstart atm he can’t afford both phone and Satellite, so he chose the internet so he could apply for jobs etc. Now when he is getting only occasional connection he is unable to contact police, ambulance, fire brigade etc. in an emergency. Seems to me that this inadequate internet service could be a life threatening issue.

VICTORIA: MICHAEL: Walhalla is a town of 16 permanent residents that situated 180km [just over 2 hours] from the Melbourne CBD. We are 45 minutes from the Latrobe Valley with a population of 100,000 and 5 kilometres from a 3G mobile phone tower. Walhalla, while it sounds small, is a huge tourist destination for Victoria attracting over 120,000 visitors a year….not bad for a town of 16! Due to the steep topography, Walhalla has no mobile phone service and access to the satellite service is dependant on your position in the valley…sometimes the mountain is in the way! The Walhalla Goldfields Railway carries 32,000 passengers annually…but has ZERO internet. The Long Tunnel Extended Mine welcomes 11,000 visitors on tours every year…yet it too has zero internet access. Our town has lobbied, we have been in the Black Spot program…but unfortunately the unique mix of topography, small permanent population and lack of a major highway running through the town means we are ineligible. Unfortunately our 120,000 visitors don’t vote in Walhalla…it would be another story if they did! Sadly, we are just waiting for a death in order to force the issue, we are resigned to the fact that nothing will happen until someone dies in a fire or motor vehicle accident and the lack of communications contribute to their demise.

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NSW: ANNE: Not everyone receives coverage for mobile phone warnings, this needs to be made very clear to local governments and emergency services.

SA: TREVOR: Mr Wright said a recent light plane accident  highlighted the need for better mobile coverage in outback areas, and wants government to help with improvements. “We’ve had four search and rescues in four weeks. Two of them were [for people from] overseas, two were Australian. The longest one went for 30 hours,” he said. “Had we had mobile phone coverage or towers with data, the chances are with the communications, we would have picked up a lot of them quicker and made the exposure to risk a lot less.”  ABC STORY

Prepared for BIRRR by Kristy Sparrow, some names and identifying locations have been changed.

 

 

Chris’ Story nbn Standard Fixed Wireless

I came across the BIRRR group only recently (after the ABC LandLine segment ) and it was an absolute blast of moist fresh air across the barren land of data drought. The effort behind the website is its real strength. The fact that all you have real lives and family and many, many demands on your time and yet have made such am impact in many ways is an incredible testament to your talent and dedication.

What I like about BIRR is that:
· It brings people together to share their stories of data drought and the communication problems in modern rural, remote and regional Australia

· It does meticulous research, calling on experts, thoroughly researching the problems and liaising with professionals. The fact that BIRRR does not shout out a particular opinion or give solutions that have been just heard about in the local pub makes it a credible and reliable resource.

· It caters for the full range of RRR needs on the comms front – Phones, Mobiles, FW, Satellite, etc etc

· It’s willing and able to help individuals with individual problems (where do you all get the time and energy??)

· It places an emphasis on the needs of education in our RRR communities

· the webpage has a user-friendly design and is really easy to navigate. Articles and posts are dated and authorship / info sources attributed

· It has an important policy for fb and twitter posts that they are to be respectful, not rude and not (too) politically biased

Back in the early 20th C when the phone first came to central NSW my grandparents were doing mixed farming around the Forbes area. Their technological highpoint for communications was a party-line that ran through about 12 properties. Everyone shared the one line and had an individual combination of rings for them to know a call was for them. Haven’t we come a long way! Haven’t we got a long way still to go.?

My particular interest has been Fixed Wireless and if not for the contribution of BIRRR I would have given up and gone back to two tin cans with a string between. We failed our first signal test * but are now back on track with a new RSP (suggested by BIRRR) and, with luck, by the end of the year should be on the nbn. Great for us. But what of the so many others who are far worse off? All strength to BIRR and may it continue until we all have a decent and affordable means to communicate, help educate our kids, do business, and (dare I mention it?) be entertained!

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UPDATE 3/12/15:  A thousand thank you’s to Kristy Sparrow and all the installers who visited our place, and the brilliant folks at Aussie Broadband and the BIRRR community. We’re now on the NBN FW in South Gippsland. It was a difficult journey but we got there. We can run our business, communicate with our friends, and have much lower stress levels about going over our data limit. When the grandkids come to stay they are happy too.

* Chris was able to get the correct signal strength when nbn changed the fixed wireless parameters from -96dbm to -99dBm

Prepared for BIRRR by Chris Downes