Everyone living on the remote Groote archipelago – about 2000 Traditional Owners and an increasing number of businesspeople – will soon be better connected to the world and each other.
Two communications projects costing a total of $8.5 million will speed up internet links, improve mobile phone coverage and enable the Anindilyakwa Land Council’s community services and growing wealth-creating enterprises to be efficiently connected.
David “Frosty” Snowman, who was recruited by the land council last year as technology transformation manager, says everyone will benefit – from children at the planned Bickerton Island boarding school to administrators uploading data to servers, from people downloading movies to businesses wanting reliable links to their head offices.
“It will make a big difference to people’s lives,” he says.
The Telstra backhaul project, which started in September and should be finished by December, will dramatically speed up internet and mobile phone connections by increasing bandwidth and reliability.
“Telecommunication on Groote is congested – download speeds are very slow because more people are using phones and laptops,” says Mr Snowman.
Telstra has been contracted to upgrade the 540-kilometre single fibre optic cable running from Katherine to Numbulwar on the Gulf of Carpentaria coast and then undersea to Groote.
The link fails many times a year, making Groote what Telstra calls a “community in isolation”.
“Everything is cut off – mobile phones, landlines and the internet. If you want to call out, 000, police or ambulance for an accident you have to use a satellite phone.”
Causes of the failures range from lightning strikes to equipment breakdowns.
The $7 million cost of the project is being shared – $3 million from the land council, $3 million from manganese mine operator South32 and $1 million from the Northern Territory Government.
“This project will make the link more reliable and provide greater bandwidth,” Mr Snowman says. “It should remove the congestion on the mobile network and provide faster internet services.”
All community and business on Groote will benefit greatly – a critical point as the land council’s drive to empower Traditional Owners through economic development gathers pace.
The second project, establishing a microwave network, is nearly finished.
It will enable the land council’s many divisions to communicate with each other more effectively.
“Dishes are being fixed on buildings and pointed at other buildings to provide a high-frequency radio wave connection.
“This will give them high-speed access to send data, such as documents, videos, audio and Pdfs, to our servers. At the moment, the only way to do that is with domestic ADSL services, which are very slow.
“Once the backhaul is complete we can also access and pass on high-speed internet to our buildings connected via the microwave.”
This means that two exciting land council projects – the boarding school on Bickerton Island and the Winchelsea manganese mine – will be connected to the outside world
The microwave network is costing $1.5 million.
“The Telstra backhaul project connects us to the rest of the world – the microwave network connects us to each other.”