Mobile satellite provider Pivotel installing 4G towers for farmers

Solar- and battery-powered 4G mobile base stations will utilise satellite services to provide connectivity to farmers in rural areas under Pivotel's solution.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Mobile satellite solutions provider Pivotel has announced its broadband and Internet of Things (IoT) solution for rural areas using a combination of 4G and satellite.

The network offering, named ecoSphere by Piovtel, involves installing 4G base stations on farms that are solar and battery powered, with connected sensors tracking information across the entire farm.

This enables farmers to access long-range connectivity to video, data, tracking, and monitoring of assets including gates, pumps, machinery, and employees over a private network.

Pivotel said its technology could also be used on mining sites.

"Australian businesses operating in remote parts of the country have been at the mercy of telecommunications giants who offer little flexibility or targeted business and safety-enhancing coverage," Pivotel Group CEO Peter Bolger said.

"Pivotel Group is one of only four licensed mobile carriers in Australia, and the only carrier dedicated to solving the communications struggles that come with living, working and travelling in remote Australia."

Pivotel's solution comes as Australia's three major telecommunications providers argue over the issue of rural coverage.

Vodafone, Telstra, and Optus are currently butting heads on the wholesale mobile domestic roaming issue -- whereby Vodafone would be permitted to piggyback off Telstra's existing mobile infrastructure -- as well as taking part in the discussion surrounding reform to the universal service obligation (USO) and competing against one another to take part in the federal government's mobile blackspot program.

The first two rounds of the blackspot program are delivering new or additional coverage to 765 rural or under-served sites across the country by combining government and private funding to build out or upgrade mobile towers.

In addition, Optus is installing small cells across Australia, which utilise satellite services rather than expensive mobile towers having to be built out, while Vodafone is investing AU$9 million of its own funding in constructing 32 new mobile base stations across the country.

The Productivity Commission's draft report into the USO, released in December, showed that although Vodafone claims to have 96 percent of the Australian population covered by its mobile network, or 23 million people, only 7.5 percent of the continent's landmass is covered. Optus' population coverage is 98.5 percent while its geographic coverage is 15.6 percent, and Telstra's population coverage stands at 99.3 percent, which amounts to 31 percent of the landmass.

In terms of providing fixed-line services to remote areas, the Australian government's National Broadband Network (NBN) is also providing Sky Muster satellite services to the remotest 3 percent of the Australian population via the projection of 101 spot beams -- however, it has faced complaints concerning connectivity and service faults.

NBN recently revealed that there have been 520 complaints since the launch of Sky Muster: 206 in NSW; 103 in Queensland; 94 in Victoria; 42 in Western Australia; 31 in Tasmania; 23 in South Australia; and 21 in the Northern Territory.

"Over the past two months, there have been issues with the software responsible for managing various aspects of the satellite network," NBN explained in response to Senate Estimates questions on notice.

"The root causes are understood, fixes have been identified, and we are in the process of rolling out new software to the network to improve stability and reliability.

"The total number of network faults since launch is 325, with an average restoration time of 1.5 hours. The total number of service faults raised by RSPs on behalf of end users since launch is 2,984; however, it should be noted that this is likely to include multiple reports relating to the same network fault or issue."

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