Council cuts comms costs with broadband upgrade

Coorong Council in regional SA connects to a solar powered broadband network

Internode has completed the final stage of its hybrid network that uses a solar-powered microwave backbone and wireless technology to bring faster speeds and lower prices to the Coorong region of South Australia.

By partnering with Coorong District Council, Internode was able to install ADSL2+ broadband in telephone exchanges at Meningie, Tailem Bend, Coonalpyn and Tintinara. Additional solar-powered microwave radio towers were built to deliver Internode Wireless broadband across remote townships in the region.

Internode managing director, Simon Hackett, said the solar-powered towers were vital to deliver a financially sustainable broadband network in a regional area.

"The Coorong Project was launched in 2001 to reduce telephone call costs in the region and subsequently evolved into a broadband delivery mechanism because of the way we had designed the network infrastructure," he said.

The Adelaide-based ISP said the voice and data broadband network delivers 100 percent coverage to 6000 residents and businesses in the 8800 square kilometre area south east of Adelaide.

About half of the 6000 residents will be serviced by ADSL2+ with wireless delivering broadband to areas of Coorong where the population density is lower. Those eligible for ADSL2+ can access Internet speeds up to 24Mbps (depending on distance from the exchange and quality of copper) while the wireless customers will have speeds up to 1.5Mbps.

"The whole network is independent of Telstra, so it is significant," said Coorong District Council coordinator of information services, Kym Cleggett. "On completion and commissioning, the network is fully owned and maintained by the Internode Group, so it will not pose any ongoing liabilities for the council."

An Internode spokesperson said the total value of the project is about $3.5 million. An initial investment of $892,000 from the federal Networking the Nation fund kick-started the initiative five years ago, with additional funding coming from the SA government as well as cash and in-kind contributions from the Coorong District Council and Internode.

Last year, the Coorong Communications Network was recognized as Australia's Best Regional Communication Solution by the Australian Telecommunication Users Group (ATUG). The Coorong Network was the first publicly available non-Telstra communication network in regional Australia.

(Additional reporting by Howard Dahdah)

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