A Wagga computer wizard has set out to get fed-up farmers connected to the world.
Network expert Dan Winson said he was shocked to hear the extent to which farmers had been ignored by the telecommunications industry and decided to do something about it.
“There’s a lot of big spaces with no coverage at all,” Mr Winson said.
“Being able to make a simple phone call is something we take for granted these days, but a lot of farmers can’t even do that. I knew we had the technology to do it, it had just never been applied before.”
The concept is quite simple: Build a large tower to connect to a mobile phone network, then use wireless networks to share that signal across a large property. The execution is a little more difficult, but it’s something Mr Winson has had success with.
For people like Kerry Aldred, an irrigator with a property near Carrathool on the Murrumbidgee River, being able to reliably make a simple phone call was a pipe dream until recently. Any mobile phone signal to the 5900-hectare property had to cross the river eight times and even with a “booster”, coverage was patchy at best.
“If it was windy, if there was too much humidity or if it was too dry, even if the sun came out the signal dropped out,” Ms Aldred said.
“There was no rhyme or reason to it and getting anything done was an absolute nightmare.”
By getting new smartphones that allowed “WiFi calling”, a feature available through some carriers, the farm-wide network meant Ms Aldred and her team could stay in touch from anywhere on the property.
“The productivity and safety aspect is huge,” she said. “If there’s a fire or an accident, no-one has to go looking for a signal to call for help.”
Mr Winson had generated a lot of interest outside of the region as well. Under the business name Agrinet, Mr Winson has found clients in Queensland, Victoria and the Northern Territory.
“Our technology is creating networks in places neglected by the big telcos, we’re bringing high speed connectivity for data, voice and video to farms and stations across Australia,” he said.
“I’m hoping to help get people onto the National Broadband Network too so they can get super-fast, affordable internet anywhere on their farm.”