Telecommunications on the Bay Islands are at the crossroads. No matter which telco islanders are with, reception for mobile, wifi and ADSL are in a perilous state. Federal Member for Bowman, the Hon Andrew Laming, is our representative who is responsible for telecommunications as they are handled by the Federal Government. He is our Q and A guest.
Q: Is it rapid island population growth that is causing an overload of both ADSL computer, wireless internet and mobile phone services?
A: Overload is typically a shortage of ports for new dwellings, or residents who move between dwellings. With NBN taking over the Telstra copper network in the next 12 months, additional investment is unlikely. It is important to hold onto the port you have, check with all providers regularly for new ports, and to trial a home wireless option, especially later this year when a new southern Russell Island wireless broadband tower is to be constructed.
Q: These are three separate problems are they not?
A: ADSL is the copper network, which NBN Co will upgrade into fibre-to-the-node. Wireless internet and mobile phone services share the tower infrastructure.
Q: Is there a cure for the current ADSL home computer issues related to the coming of the NBN?
A: No. Home wireless (for example a netgear wireless modem) may offer an alternative until NBN Co rolls out the FTTN replacement for ADSL. When NBN Co offers wireless and FTTN, retailers will compete on price and speed; to the benefit of customers.
Q: Is there nothing that can be done in the short term re ADSL service improvements?
A: Try wireless alternatives, but many have with little success. That is why I committed to a southern Russell Island tower last year, for construction end of this year.
Q: Are the problems with mobile phone and wireless internet services on the islands related to the one-tower issue on Russell Island, and that it is becoming overloaded?
A: Most likely it is weak signal from the existing solitary tower; hence the commitment to a second tower on southern Russell Island.
Q: Could the Federal Government’s ‘Blackspot’ program be a solution here, and how does it work?
A: The National Blackspot program is funding a large share of this tower's cost, to ensure it proceeds. Only the Coalition has a 'blackspot wireless' program especially formulated for rural Australia.
Q: Is it possible under this program a second tower could be in place later this year?
A: It is looking more likely that the second tower will be constructed later this year and switch-on will be early 2018.
Q: Is Telstra interested in taking up the Federal Government’s ‘Blackspot’ offer?
A: We will know Telstra's view as soon as the grant is announced, in the next two months.
Q: With the help of yourself and access to senior Telstra management, is there any way the islands can ‘help themselves’ in the improvement of connectivity?
A: Options are limited until the new tower is in place. From the end of this year, NBN roll out will be at least an additional 12 months, but the precise time depends on contracting; which is yet to occur. Last Election, I quoted the 2014 three-year plan, which NBN Co changed in February this year. I suspect fibre to node roll-out will commence early 2018 and be completed a year later. This is yet to be confirmed.
ISLAND TELECOMMUNICATIONS IN TURMOIL
Are you having trouble with your mobile phone and your home computer on the Bay Islands at the present time?
Are text messages failing to send and when accessing the internet on your phone, it is telling you that the service is not responding?
And what of your home computer, is it breaking down and not sending or receiving information for long periods of time?
And it doesn’t matter who your provider its, it is the same for all.
But when you decide to ring your provider, and Telstra in particular, they check your service and tell you there appears to be nothing wrong?
Well, we can tell you, there is definitely something wrong.
It has been so bad recently that island supermarkets and post offices have been suffering with payment links out for one or two days of each week.
The problem has everything to do with rapid island progress.
Recent island growth and excess demand for the services that island IT equipment can provide is the situation in a nutshell, and our tech giants can do little for us, it seems.
There are two different situations involved with differing technologies.
One is island mobile phone services and wi fi, and the other is home ADSL services.
Island mobile services are handled by the sole Telstra tower on Russell Island, and it is in overload.
ADSL services are provided by the outdated old copper wire phone system that has been on the islands for years and it, too, is overloaded.
We can tell you there may be assistance in sight for the island mobile services and wifi, but there is no ‘quick fix’ for the ADSL service.
In this edition of The Friendly Bay Islander, Federal Member for Bowman, Andrew Laming, says Russell Island should be getting a second ‘additional’ tower to assist island mobile phone services, later in the year.
Apparently the island was identified as a candidate for the Coalition Government’s remote ‘black spot’ program with the Federal Government providing half the funding with Telstra for the additional tower.
It is expected to be completed by the end of the year and commissioned in early 2018.
In relation to home computers and ADSL, the island will just ‘have to wait’ until the NBN gets to the islands, which could still be two or three years ago, depending on the NBN rollout program.
The dates for implementation of the NBN on our islands has been adjusted several times, so no certainty is known.
As usual, the islands are at the bottom of the list when it comes to IT and communications.
CAN WE DO ANYTHING ABOUT OUT ISLAND COMMUNICATIONS? TRAVIS HAS A WIFI PLAN!
It seems if anything is to be resolved on our islands, islanders might have to be prepared to just ‘do it ourselves’.
In the case of communications, there is not much we can do about the home ADSL links and ports until the NBN Co is here, and that could still be two or three years away.
However, when it comes to mobile and wifi, there is something we can do.
In fact, one island tech is already doing something about it.
Travis Place believes he can help with island wifi services.
Already he has installed at strategic points dish receivers that can extend wifi services to various points on the islands.
So far they are installed at the Macleay Island Progress Hall to service the Macleay Island library and the Macleay jetty area.
There is also one at Travis’ office that will cover the Russell Island jetty area.
“I hope to soon install one at the Russell Island Shopping Centre to offer businesses there surety of connection for business transactions.”
Travis’ other early targets will be all island jetty areas for wifi connection.
He said once these are in place, it is possible to extend the signals further up the islands.
“At its utmost, we could service possibly hundreds, but not thousands of homes in need of wifi mobile and internet services,” he told The Friendly Bay Islander.
Travis is also working on a possible solution to renowned black spots in the Wahine Drive and southern Russell Island areas as well.
“There is no time line on this, and it will be a progressed extension of the services,” he said.
To make it work, Travis would like to hear from island residents who might like to make their homes available to take a dish so the signal can progress up the length of our islands.
Travis can be contacted at email: info@bayislandsinfo,com