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.
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.
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 nbn™ fixed 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 Wirelessnbn™ 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
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).
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)
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
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.
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.
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!
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
My experience started about 8 months ago. After numerous articles in the paper, ads on TV and radio, the letterbox pamphlets and all the typical fanfare that happens with a new technology, the NBN was finally available in the area my family’s property is in! It would be a huge improvement on the slow ABG Satellite and expensive yet unreliable mobile broadband that we had at the time.
After comparing plans, we chose a provider and signed up. Surely if we could get mobile coverage we could get fixed wireless……. But it was not going to be that simple. When the installer came out to do a signal test, the result was not good, -106dBm. The cutoff was -96dBm. No install for us. After calls to the RSP, NBN etc,the verdict was we’d have to wait for the satellite service. But, being as stubborn as I am, I started doing a bit of research to work out why we could not get it. After researching the tower locations on the mynbn.info website and checking on Google maps, I worked out the signal was blocked by a granite ridge behind the house. What about a mast on the hill I thought? More calls to NBN and the result was bad luck, we were listed as unable to get NBN. They wouldn’t send a tech out for another signal test, even though I could literally see the NBN tower from the top of the hill. Very frustrating!
Fast forward a few months, I was put in touch with the team from BIRRR who not only had some great resources and information available on the page, but also worked hard to get us re-listed as Service class 5 (NBN Fixed wireless available, no NTD Installed) so that we could book another install!
Not wanting another fail, I studied as much as I could on fixed wireless technology, installation requirements etc. These can be found on the BIRRR pages, NBN Website, Whirlpool forums, ACMA Website etc. But to summarise; here are a few requirements:
You MUST be located within 14KMs of an active NBN Fixed wireless tower. Line of sight is recommended, as the frequency used is affected by terrain. Solid terrain such as hills etc will degrade the signal heavily, as will thick bush land. A few gums etc. will affect it but not as badly. It is the water in the foliage which interferes.
For a pass, the signal has to be at least -96dBm. The lower the number, the better the signal eg. -70dBm is better than -80dBm. Since this time, the cutoff point has been increased to -99dBm.
The install has 2 main components, the ODU (Out Door Unit, a panel antenna and modem) and the NTD (Network Termination Device). The maximum cable run between the 2 units cannot be more than 80 metres. This is the cable run, not the distance “as the crow flies”. The ODU has to be mounted where it gets a strong signal from the tower. The NTD must be mounted within 1.5 metres of a 240v power supply in a weatherproof enclosure that does not get too hot or cold.
The cable joining the two components must be run through white telecommunications conduit with no sharp bends at a minimum depth of 30cms underground from the building housing the NTD to the mast/building where the ODU is located. It needs to have a string line run through from one end to the other to feed the cable through, and this is much easier to do as you are joining the conduit as opposed to trying to feed it through the whole length.
If a mast or tower needs to be erected, it is the responsibility of the owner to have it in place and meeting any local legal requirements. It must be sturdy. A 10 metre length of gal pipe tied to a star-picket is a no-go… I would recommend buying a proper radio tower if needed. These can be sourced from Hills, Nally towers etc.
The installer is not responsible for ensuring access to the mounting location, the property owner is. This means if it is to be mounted on a 14 metre mast, the owner has to provide a cherry picker on the day of the install. No installer will climb a 14 metre tower, especially a home-made one.
NBN responsibility stops at the NTD. If you need to get the internet from that location to another location or to multiple devices, this has to be arranged by the owner at their own expense.
There may be things I have missed… I recommend doing your research and double-check everything. There are a lot of resources available on the BIRRR page including a guide to fixed wireless installs, both standard and non-standard.
Now that I had all the info required, I could get everything ready for the install.
STEP 1: My first step was to put a building on a spot on the property where I could get a strong signal. After a bit of hunting around, I bought a cheap caravan for the purpose. My reasoning for this was that a caravan can be parked anywhere on your property without council approval providing nobody is living in it, whereas building a shed would need a development application approved. Check your local council regulations on this, as it may vary. I parked it as close to the top of the ridge as I could.
STEP 2: The second step was to put up a mast with line of sight to the tower. Since I had the van close to the ridge, the mast only needed to be above the height of any stray kangaroos etc. So I went with a 3 metre length of 1” galvanised pipe cemented 60cm into the ground, remembering the conduit end.
STEP 3: Digging the trench proved to be difficult, as the 20 metres closest to the mast was full of bush rock. There must have been about 10 ton of rock that I pulled out with a 4×4 bit by bit. After the trench was done, I ran the conduit. This was proper NBN Conduit available at a local electrical wholesaler for about $1/metre in 4.5 metre lengths. To make it even simpler for the installer, I ran the cable as I was going. This meant purchasing it myself, but it was a time-saver and on the day of the install the tech was grateful it was done. The cable has to be outdoor gel-filled Cat5e ethernet cable. I purchased this from an electrical supply store in Sydney at 88c/metre.
STEP 4: Due to the location, running a 240v power supply from the house to the van was not practical, so I installed a 250w solar panel and 330Ah battery bank with a sine-wave inverter for power. Being over the 90 metre limit for Ethernet to the house, I decided that a wireless bridge was the logical step. When setting these up, you have to be careful not to exceed the maximum power limit of 4 watts EIRP for broadcasting, or the ACMA can hit you with massive fines. If you are going this route, I would recommend getting it installed by a professional if you are not experienced with wireless networking.
Now that all the prep work had been done, I booked an install through SkyMesh (who I have to say are brilliant to deal with, it’s a good change waiting on the line for just a few minutes and talking to an Aussie) and on the 30th of December 2015, the tech showed up on time, did a quick signal test and the result was great… -60dBm! Well within the limits.
Within an hour it was all installed and after a bit of a wait, we were activated!
After all that work, there was a happy ending!
These speeds are about the average we receive now, and so far the setup has proved to be fairly reliable.
I would like to thank Kristy Sparrow and the team at BIRRR, Skymesh and NBN. For making this possible and turning an extremely frustrating situation around for a positive outcome.
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, SkyMesh or any other organisation referred to here. Prepared for BIRRR by Kain Fitzgerald.