New ‘internet from anywhere’ device stars in early trials

NQ Dry Tropics Grazing Field Officer Angus Hogg finds a comfortable spot to pull over south of Collinsville to log into an office Zoom meeting.

Game changer for NRMs working in rural areas

NQ Dry Tropics is trialling a new satellite internet service, which could provide connectivity for field officers working in areas with limited, or no internet service.

Starlink makes it possible for field staff to take high-speed internet everywhere they go. Starlink is a constellation of low orbit satellites, an offshoot of Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX, which aims to bring internet to people around the world. 

Tropical North Queensland Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub (TNQ Drought Hub) purchased the hardware kit. During the next six months NQ Dry Tropics, a node member of the Drought Hub, will test its reliability and speed across the Burdekin Dry Tropics region. 

NQ Dry Tropics Grazing Team Leader Josh Nicholls said initial tests were encouraging. 

“We’ve trialled it at two locations where there’s no internet service, west of Collinsville and south of Charters Towers. Internet speed and latency was excellent,” Mr Nicholls said.

“Both times field officers were able to have a real-time conversation with staff in the Townsville office with no lag issues .

“This could be a game changer for how NQ Dry Tropics does business. It could also open up opportunities for rural enterprises throughout the Burdekin region. 

“The ability to take high-speed connectivity to remote areas opens up new ways of working remotely.

“It will enable us to run workshops and field days at places where previously, we could not, as well as being able to collect, store and report data on the go. 

“Conducting property visits becomes more productive because the landholder and field officer will be able to access information and data instantly to help with property planning and mapping. 

“Field officers could upload Land Condition Assessment Tool (LCAT) data instantly from the field, improving efficiency and saving time.

“They’d also be able to communicate with the Townsville office more readily. From a health and safety perspective, knowing staff could get help in an emergency, would be comforting,” he said.

NQ Dry Tropics will use Starlink at the upcoming February Maps and Apps workshop in Greenvale, 23-24 February where internet service is often slow, causing connectivity issues.

The portability of the kit enables staff to move the Starlink satellite dish and router to locations around the region. The hardware kit includes a small satellite dish, wifi router and the necessary cables and power supply.  The dish can stand freely on the ground. 

According to Starlink, users can expect to see download speeds between 100 Mb/s and 200 Mb/s and latency as low as 20ms in most locations. 

NQ Dry Tropics’ initial testing recorded download speeds of more than 200 Mb/s. Adoption of Starlink as a business tool for NQ Dry Tropics will depend on the results of the trial.

NQ Dry Tropics Grazing Field Officer Angus Hogg is on the side of the road south of Collinsville but able to attend a Zoom meeting with Grazing Team Leader Josh Nicholls (inset) with no connectivity problems.

Even on a lonely road in the middle of nowhere, NQ Dry Tropics Grazing Field Officer Angus Hogg is not out of range of the office with the Starlink in his kit.