Google
 

Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2019 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk



Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

All hands to the data-pump

20 March 2008

Telecom is boasting that it will deliver broadband to any town or village with at least 500 phone lines.

That's got to be good news for rural New Zealand who, until recently, have been largely stuck with a choice between noisy and unreliable dial-up access or expensive and cumbersome satellite-based systems.

But what does this mean to our more sparsely populated rural areas?

Will "Farmer Brown" still be left waiting and wanting for a decent connection to what has become an essential tool of business and education?

Well I suspect that Telecom won't be too interested in trying to deliver DSL to this small but important subset of our population and, despite the recent unbundling of the loop, nor will anyone else.

At a time when (dairy) farmers represent the camel on whose back the entire nation is largely reliant for its prosperity, it seems outrageous that these people have to make-do or even do-without internet access.

But maybe there is a way...

Back in the days when we only had a choice of a few TV channels and the idea of using a satellite to broadcast those channels direct to viewers was completely unheard of, many rural Kiwis faced exactly the same problem we're now seeing with broadband.

Thanks to the tricky geography of NZ, lots of small settlements and regions simply couldn't get a watchable signal so were left with just the wireless or HiFi to keep them company of an evening.

Then an enterprising group of "techos" got the idea of building small TV transmitters that could be placed at a suitably elevated location and relay to the houses below, the TV signal that could be received from that point.

Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

To avoid feedback issues, these relay stations received the signal on one channel and rebroadcast it on another. As a result they were called translators.

Once it was realised that a few thousand dollars worth of electronics could bring the wonderful world of TV to all but the most remote households, a profitable business grew out of the demand for these translators and (if I recall correctly) a company in New Plymouth was one of the leading players.

Back in 1977 or so I spent some time out at Lochinvar Station near Taupo, installing and setting up just such a translator to provide TV signals for the small village the station owners had created.

So what's this all got to do with broadband?

Well I'm wondering if parts of NZ might benefit from this same community-based approach to distributing broadband internet into otherwise uneconomic areas.

Some more remote parts of the country (Northland and Southland) are already serviced by wireless broadband systems, most of which have been subsidised by the taxpayer - but what about the rest?

This story from Ars Technica got me wondering if some of this long-range WiFi technology might not be applied to the NZ rural situation.

With a range of 100Kms, it would not be that expensive to create the equivalent of a wireless broadband backbone that spanned the length of both islands and branched off to serve small rural communities along the way.

At US$500 (NZ$650) per node (plus support infrastructure), the creation of such an network would not (in telco terms) be an expensive undertaking. When you consider that one of those small TV translators cost around $5K back in 1977 (when $5K was a *lot* of money), the "value for money" of such a WiFi solution is looking good.

Of course just 6.5Mbps might start to become a bit of a bottleneck at peak times if you've got more than a dozen or so people doing simultaneous downloads but the "always on" availability, freeing up of the POTS line and freedom from dropped carriers and other issues might make it worthwhile.

Are you in one of those internet black-spots where dial-up is your only option?

How much would you spend to buy into a community WiFi node that would serve you and your neighbours with a better service than dial-up?

Isn't it a shame that IndraNet seems to have dropped the ball with its promises of building an intelligent mesh-network system that would be another ideal solution to this problem.

Maybe their air-powered cars will at least allow farmers to drive into town and use a cyber-cafe.

Have your say on this...

PERMALINK to this column

Oh, and don't forget today's sci/tech news headlines


Rank This Aardvark Page

 

Change Font

Sci-Tech headlines

 


Features:

The EZ Battery Reconditioning scam

Beware The Alternative Energy Scammers

The Great "Run Your Car On Water" Scam

 

Recent Columns

The weakest link?
How ironic is it that just days after I published a column in which I suggested that where data security is involved we should trust nobody, that a huge crime ring is busted for just that reason...

When will this be fixed?
The internet and banking are uncomfortable bedmates...

Is tech paranoia justified?
Tech maybe scary to some but are the current levels of paranoia really justified?...

I apologise
In light of recent world-wide events and trends, today's column is an apology...

Covid-19, the good and bad news
The world is worried that CV19 will cause ongoing economic and human disaster around the globe...

Google to pay for news
When I read the headline I couldn't believe my eyes...

Criminals breaking the law? No!
Just over a year ago an attrocity was committed right here in New Zealand...

Should we be worried?
I think the world is somewhat underestimating China's desire to extend its borders...

Poor old Intel
Intel were right there at the start of the microprocessor revolution...

I am so selfish
Today's column is something of a personal diary entry...

Jacinda is NOT learning
A few weeks ago I warned that opening NZ's borders, even a little bit, would constitute a huge risk to our virus-free status and could not be justified...