[Feature image supplied by Karen Collier, SkyMesh customer & Get Snapping 2020 Photo Competition Entrant]
SkyMesh are one of only three retail service providers (RSPs) to partner with nbn™ so far, connecting rural Australians to friends and family via community Wi-Fi points during natural disasters.
Thanks to the partnership, nbn™ will install new equipment that will remain permanently in the local hall or evacuation centre of 109 rural communities where SkyMesh and the other RSPs will manage the Sky Muster satellite internet service.
During natural disasters, these community Wi-Fi points will provide full internet access to local residents who can’t safely stay at home. At all other times (non-emergency times), the connection will provide a basic level of internet access so locals can use Wi-Fi calling, email and web-browsing.
Each site has the capacity to connect between 40 and 100 users at the same time.
Already, 33 community Wi-Fi points are operational across the country. A full list of those locations can be found at the end of this article.
In addition to the 109 fixed sites, there are also powering 5 nbn™ Muster Trucks and 12 nbn™ Fly Aways across the country that will be shared among participating RSPs.
A Muster Truck is a van kitted out with all the necessary nbn™ equipment to provide emergency satellite internet coverage.
Similarly, a Fly Away is designed for mobility. It is a portable nbn™ satellite internet terminal which is self-pointing (that is, it finds the satellite in space without human assistance) and is operational within 15-minutes.
Both the Muster Truck and the Fly Away will give Emergency Service Organisations as well as evacuated community members much needed peace-of-mind during natural disasters, knowing they will always have an internet connection.
The Muster Truck can be deployed to a community within a three-day period to provide emergency internet connectivity and phone charging capacity when nothing else is available.
It’s also self-sufficient, relying on its own power for up to 8-hours.
The Fly Aways will work in the same manner as a normal fixed Sky Muster satellite installation, only its portable nature means it can be easily and quickly deployed in a disaster.
Emergency service organisations and community centres can request access when no other means of connecting to the internet is available. It then works with the users own device such as a laptop, smartphone or tablet.
The partnership forms just one section of the much wider $37.1m federally funded program to Strengthen Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters (STAND), an initiative that came out of the catastrophic 2019 bushfire season.
In early August 2020, the Federal Government invited states and territories to nominate sites for fixed installations of an nbn™ disaster satellite service that would help support back-up community Wi-Fi in the event that site’s existing primary network is interrupted during a disaster.
There will ultimately be up-to 2000 locations across rural Australian with access to these nbn™ community Wi-Fi solutions.