The Mirror News

Poles the price of progress

AT LEAST thirteen new poles measuring upwards of 30 metres (about nine storeys) are expected to be constructed across the local landscape in the next year or so in order to provide the people of South Gippsland with access to fixed wireless high-speed broadband.

Subject to final planning and other approvals, access could be available from the end of next year.

Sixteen locations within the shire have been nominated as suitable for fixed wireless facilities, each of which will serve a specific number of premises. Sites at Ruby and Korumburra have been identified as feasible for co-location with existing towers. Investigations are continuing to find a suitable site at Fish Creek. It will depend on the line of sight from the tower proposed for Foster Northeast. At one stage it was hoped to locate a tower on the roof of the new hospital at Leongatha, but the decision to have a helipad in that area made this impossible.

“Fixed wireless aims to deliver speeds and services that city people take for granted,” said NBN Co’s community relations advisor, Tony Gibbs. “With services delivered over the NBN you can download movies in minutes, enjoy video calls with fewer drop outs, and get the whole family on line at once, all at a price that is less than what you might think.”

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is designed to provide high-speed broadband access to 100 per cent of Australian premises. To reach everyone, the NBN will be delivered via a mix of fibre optic cabling direct to the house, fixed wireless and satellite technologies. Australians who receive NBN’s fixed wireless will be among the first to experience the benefits of high speed broadband over the NBN. The fixed wireless network is expected to be completed by 2015, five years ahead of the expected completion of the fibre network, and it will serve around four per cent of the population. As a general rule, communities with more than 1,000 premises will be served by fibre. Some centres with fewer premises will also be served by fibre if they are close to supporting network infrastructure.

NBN Co’s fixed wireless and satellite networks will serve communities with low population density, such as much of South Gippsland, where it is impractical or uneconomical to roll out fibre optic cable.

NBN Co has engaged Ericsson to design, build and operate the fixed wireless network, and Ericsson has engaged Visionstream Pty Ltd to undertake preliminary environmental design and site acquisition activities supporting the fixed wireless rollout.

Visionstream has begun work on the rollout in South Gippsland, and last Wednesday Katie Hill, Senior Environmental Planner with Visionstream, and Alison Milner, Community Relations Advisor with Ericsson, briefed South Gippsland Shire Council on the rollout.

The locations selected for facilities are: Bena, Dumbalk, Fish Creek, Foster Northeast, Kongwak, Koonwarra, Korumburra, Leongatha South, Meeniyan, Port Franklin, Port Welshpool, Ruby, Toora, Welshpool, Yanakie and Yanakie North.

They will serve up to 500 premises each and will rely on a clear line of sight. Their respective heights will be dependent on this.

Closest to Foster, the proposal is for a new Greenfield facility (a 40 metre monopole) on land at the rear of a steel scrap yard about 80 metres east of Ameys Track. Existing dense vegetation around the proposed site, which is in the Farming Zone, is considered to provide a good level of screening from adjoining properties, as is the case with most of the sites. The development application at the site is waiting on the final results of transmission testing to clarify facility heights needed to ensure coverage objectives, including links to facilities at Yanakie North and Port Franklin.

The Yanakie North site is a ‘hub’ with linkages to Foster Northeast and Yanakie. The proposal is for a new Greenfield facility (35 metre monopole) on a council reserve on the Meeniyan-Promontory Road, set back from the road by about 60 metres and again well screened by established vegetation.

At Yanakie the proposal is for a new Greenfield facility (30 metre monopole) on cleared farming land to the east of the Yanakie township, north of Shellcott Road.

At Port Franklin the proposal is for a 40 metre monopole on cleared farming land at Mattsons Road, and at Port Welshpool a 30 metre monopole is proposed within the caravan park.

At Toora the proposal is for a 35 metre monopole on cleared farming land at Beale Road, south of the Toora township, about 300 metres from the nearest residential land use, while at Welshpool a 30 metre monopole on elevated land to the northwest of the township at Slades Hill Road is proposed. Co-location on the existing Optus monopole was explored, but the height was insufficient, so a Greenfield solution was adopted.

At Meeniyan a 40 metre monopole on Crown land at Royston Street, within the setback to the southern boundary of Meeniyan Cemetery, is proposed.

As most of the fixed wireless service will be delivered via new poles and towers placed near to communities, there are planning approval implications. Low impact proposals and co-location opportunities on existing infrastructure do not require planning consent.

Several councillors expressed disquiet that communities have not been consulted about the proposals for towers in their midst.

They were assured that there will be community consultation. Visionstream spokesperson Katie Hill said, “We do community drop-ins for sites that have created some angst.”

Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks said, “I would have thought it was the first thing to do – talk to the community. You can save an awful lot of heartache if you talk to them first.”

“This new council is driven by community engagement. Consultation is very important,” agreed the mayor, Cr Kieran Kennedy. This view was reiterated by Cr Andrew McEwen, who said: “This is a very sensible strategy that will ultimately save you time.”

Ms Milner was able to assure the councillors of the high health and safety standards of the network rollout.

She said the fixed wireless network is subject to national safety standards for the transmission of radiofrequency signals. Ericsson will submit a compliance report for each proposed fixed wireless facility, demonstrating its maximum possible signal strength. The NBN’s fixed wireless network operates at very low levels of radio power, sending relatively weak, localised signals to fixed points in the immediate surrounds. Its facilities operate at power levels thousands of times below the safety standard. The latest advice is that the base stations use similar technology to 4G mobile phones and produce very low exposures to EMR (or EME) in the surrounding area, even very close to the installation.

NBN’s fixed wireless network uses advanced technology commonly referred to as LTE or 4G. It is engineered to deliver services to a fixed number of premises within each coverage area. This means that the bandwidth per household is designed to be more consistent than mobile wireless, even in peak times of use. Unlike a mobile wireless service, where speeds can be affected by the number of people moving into and out of the area, the speed available in a fixed wireless network is designed to remain relatively steady. NBN Co’s fixed wireless network is designed to offer internet service providers with wholesale access speeds of up to 12 Mbps, which is comparable, and in some cases better, than that available in many urban areas.

NBN Co is a wholesale provider, which means that to connect a service once fixed wireless becomes available in their area customers need to go through a retail company such as an internet service provider. The provider will organise the installation of network equipment which NBN Co will provide free of charge. For more information about installations visit the website www.nbnco.com.au

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