Start-ups to fill rural connectivity gaps

Zetifi and Leading Edge Data Centres work to fill connectivity gaps

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Zetifi CEO Daniel Winson hands Riverina MP Michael McCormack scissors to cut the ribbon to open their Wagga Wagga factory. Zetifi plans to deliver Wi-Fi to Australia's most remote locations. Photo: Rachel McDonald

Zetifi CEO Daniel Winson hands Riverina MP Michael McCormack scissors to cut the ribbon to open their Wagga Wagga factory. Zetifi plans to deliver Wi-Fi to Australia's most remote locations. Photo: Rachel McDonald

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Putting regional businesses on a level playing field.

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Technology start-ups are focusing their attention on regional and rural areas, helping to fill the connectivity gaps left in the bush.

Manufacturing start-up Zetifi officially opened the doors of its new Wagga Wagga factory this week, with plans to deliver Wi-Fi to some of Australia's most remote locations.

The company makes solar-powered technology that can connect to existing internet providers or create a private Wi-Fi connection to provide internet connectivity in rural and remote areas without a reliable NBN service.

Founder and chief executive officer Daniel Winson said the company had already connected more than 100 clients through early adopters and prototype customers, and was looking to expand significantly in the next 12 months after receiving a $644,370 federal government grant to accelerate its commercialisation.

He said the company was manufacturing technology that could provide connectivity in the paddock.

"People can have Wi-Fi calling, they can have internet out in the paddock ... wireless cameras and tractors that are fully connected so you can make use of the latest innovative ag technology," he said.

"We're focused on taking care of that one per cent of people that live in areas where Telstra and Optus and other carriers can't feasibly get."

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack cut the ribbon to open the factory on Monday, and said the business would have a significant role to play in connecting farmers with the global market.

"Farmers can be selling their grain, selling their stock whilst they're still on the tractor, whilst they're in their paddocks in a very remote location in Australia."

Mr Winson said the company had grown to 10 employees over the past 18 months and he was hoping to double the workforce in the next year.

"We'd like to see manufacturing back in Australia."

An example of a Leading Edge Data Centre will look like. There are 14 being constructed throughout regional NSW. Photo: Supplied

An example of a Leading Edge Data Centre will look like. There are 14 being constructed throughout regional NSW. Photo: Supplied

Bringing data closer ensures farmers aren't left behind

Meanwhile, new data centres aiming to help communication providers expand their networks are springing up all over regional NSW.

New technology company, Leading Edge Data Centres, will build data centres at 14 regional sites around the state, with Tamworth the latest to be announced.

Leading Edge Data Centres chief executive officer Chris Thorpe said for years, regional Australian cities like Tamworth have put up with unreliable and costly internet connections, compared to their metropolitan counterparts.

"They had no alternative - but we are changing that," Mr Thorpe said.

Running the business development of the Tamworth project is Tom Gayford. He said the data centres will make it easier for providers to push their services out to regional areas as they will bring the data infrastructure closer to the end user.

"This means regional Australians will get more choice and access of network providers, driving more competition, which ultimately will lead to better connectivity and customer experience" Mr Gayford said.

"Currently, if an enterprise wants to start up in Tamworth they don't have access to the same type of technology you get in Sydney, and if they do it's at three times the price."

He said they hoped the data infrastructure would also attract precision agricultural providers.

"I grew up on a farm outside of Tamworth, and I feel like unless your farm is backed by a huge corporation that can invest millions into ag-tech you get left behind," Mr Gayford said.

"I want to see it accessible to the average farmer who's just trying to run his family farm."

"Once the software providers and precision agricultural companies see what we're doing, they will want to deploy their services in these regional locations which ultimately enables easy access and uptake for everyone."

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