Remote Community Telecommunications
It is difficult to imagine life without phone and internet - this is a reality for many people living in remote areas and islands around Australia.
Activ8me, Australia’s largest satellite broadband and registered nbnTM service provider, is working with the Australian Government to improve remote Indigenous community access to essential telecommunications services. Remote Community Telecommunications is part of the Programme to support the provision of infrastructure, housing, telecommunications and home ownership in remote Indigenous communities.
The project, funded by the Australian Government, requested the provision of 301 telephones in remote and isolated Indigenous communities of up to 50 people. In May 2009, Activ8me began installing the freestanding phones, which use a large solar array, high capacity storage batteries and two satellite connections to deliver a highly reliable service.
Calls from the phones to all fixed phones across Australia are completely free. By April 2017, more than 733,500 calls had been made using the service.
The phone booths are located in some of the most remote parts of northern Australia, including the Kimberley area in Western Australia, Arnhem Land in the Norther Territory and Mornington Island off the Queensland coast.
Small Indigenous communities across Australian mainland and its islands are now able to feel closer to the broader Australian community, reducin some of the incredible isolation experienced by these communities.
Many communities are now occupied throughout the year, including during wet season, because of phones installed under the Government's Remote Australia Strategies Programme. Previously whole communities would relocate to towns during the wet season because they had no means of communication at their original location.
The phones are designed for cost effective operation, and most service monitoring can be done remotely. System resets and remote trouble shooting is carried out from Activ8me’s Melbourne office, thousands of kilometres away.
Over 98% of phones have Wi-Fi installed and serving the communities, and the freestanding phones have lighting installed.
In 2013, the Federal Government asked Activ8me to enhance the phones with robust public Wi-Fi capability. Over the next year, Activ8me installed a router into each phone, providing free local Wi-Fi access to a 150-metre radius.
This next stage sees an upgrade to internet services in 40 remote communities connecting to the nbn™ Sky Muster™ service, delivering higher speeds and larger data allocations. A further 14 communities will gain access to public Wi-Fi for the first time, receiving the nbn™ Sky Muster service and new solar and battery-powered hardware alongside existing community telephones.