On Thursday 17 September, BCG ran a webinar with Zetifi founder Dan Winson, Cam Ferrier (a BCG farmer member who is part of the Zetifi teleconnectivity pilot project), and BCG Senior Manager of Extension and Communication, Tom Draffen. In this webinar, Dan, Cam and Tom discussed the trial Zetifi is conducting with BCG and some of our local farmer members to provide better connectivity on their properties, as well as a new opportunity for more farmers to improve connectivity on their properties with support from a grant from the Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.
Zetifi is an Australian company based in Wagga Wagga who produce products to increase 4G range and improve teleconnectivity across rural properties. These products include stationary wi-fi tower repeaters (ZetiCells) which boost 4G signal and portable rovers which can be mounted on utes, tractors or other farm vehicles.
Birchip grower, Cam Ferrier, is involved in the current Zetifi teleconnectivity pilot project, which is investigating new ways to improve regional connectivity, with a focus on on-farm connectivity by establishing three local, on-farm wi-fi networks, which also provide wi-fi calling to authorised passing traffic. This project is made possible through funding from the William Buckland Foundation.
Cam has had the Zetifi infrastructure installed on his farm for two months, and the ute-mounted rover for four months with some positive results so far. “ I can’t believe what a difference this is making to our operations.” he explained when asked about the infrastructure so far. “A working phone isn’t a luxury – it’s a must have for all businesses, especially farms. At night you can see the towers flashing their lights [Birchip, Woomelang, Sea Lake and Culgoa], but we’re just on the edge of that sweet spot which makes it difficult to make and receive phone calls. I wouldn’t say there was no service, it was just very unreliable, especially around the house and the sheds so I’d have to step out of the house or drive down to the front gate and try and find a good position. After the Zetifi network had been installed, I no longer have to do that! I can make phone calls in the house, we’ve got good internet access in the house, in the workshop, in the shearing shed and out in the paddock thanks to the rover.”
Dan noted that while Zetifi has had good success in the Birchip region, as there are a lot of connectivity lots of ‘grey spots’ ( which can get a phone call now and then, get lots of dropped calls and where text messages generally work), but not full-blown black spots. This makes it much easier to solve connectivity problems, however it gets significantly harder in worse coverage areas, although you can always get improvement, in worse coverage areas, it isn’t always possible to reach Zetifi’s 50mbp target.
The Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications recently announced their Regional Connectivity Program grants opportunity to “provide up to $53 million of targeted investment in ‘place-based’ telecommunications infrastructure projects which maximise economic and social opportunities in regional, rural and remote Australian communities” (https://www.communications.gov.au/what-we-do/internet/regional-connectivity-program).
BCG and Zetifi are applying for funding withing this program to provide a standard solution where a farm is able to get a ZetiCell, providing them internet to their house and wi-fi coverage to the key areas of their farm. If this application is successful, the government will cover 50% of the upfront costs of installing the ZetiCells. This means that the costs to growers would be $3,000 – $6,000 out of pocket for the installation (depending on location and power supply), plus an annual cost of $150 per device which includes monitoring, updates and support from Zetifi. With the ZetiCell you will get a private network and a dedicated 4G internet connection, and the public benefit will be a public network which is totally separate from your private network but is boosted by the same infrastructure to try and fill in mobile blackspots.
If you are interested in participating in this, please complete the form at https://cc.zetifi.com/ or call Dan at 0410 351 270 or email email@example.com. Zetifi will then speak to you individually and discuss how their products can help you and what coverage level will be possible in your area by looking at your property and looking at coverage maps to get a reasonable idea of what sort of coverage and what sorts of speeds you could expect with the Zetifi technology. As more people sign up, these public networks can be stitched together to provide more coverage in the gaps.
The funding application will cover those who have registered their interest, spoken with Zetifi about their options and potential coverage and decided to go ahead with the install in time for the application to be written and submitted, as such EOI’s are required as soon as possible.
The funding application for the Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications’ Regional Connectivity Program grants are due by 20 October, so interest will need to be registered by 5th October at the latest.
More info on Zetifi & their products is available at https://zetifi.com/
A recording of the webinar is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1JvdpuR2d4&t=4s
If you want to follow the stories of the 3 BCG member growers who are currently using the systems, keep an eye on the BCG website and eNews for updates plus case studies once the project has wrapped up.