Signal boost gives network advantage
No signal, no business – it’s as simple as that. Commerce today assumes digital connectivity, and if you don’t have it you’re stuck out there on your own.
Worse still, ‘‘out there’’ could mean almost anywhere. A sandy track by a beach, an underground car park in the city, a mine site in the desert, even a cafe in a skyscraper – any of these could be your new ‘‘office’’, and all of them can make it hard to get on to the network.
Ran McDonald, head of sales for Powertec Telecommunications, says Australia’s vast distances and rugged terrain create natural challenges, and the built environment isn’t much easier.
Concrete, brick, window tinting, mesh security screens, metal roofing, copper wiring, garage roller doors, foil-backed insulation and aluminium epoxy cladding can all reflect or absorb the radio frequency signals that deliver data to your screen.
‘‘Everyone relies on their mobile phone working,’’ McDonald says.
‘‘They expect the network providers to give you network coverage wherever you are, whether that’s in the basement of a high-rise building or at the bottom of a valley on a farm.
‘‘But it’s not economical for our telecommunications companies to reach every possible place in Australia, and they are not required to do so.’’
Gaps in the network are being tackled under the Mobile Black Spots Program, which is co-funded by the federal, state and local governments, businesses, local communities and the three network operators.
The first four rounds generated investments worth $760 million and delivered 1047 new base stations across Australia.
The government has now committed a further $160 million to the program under Rounds 5 and 6. The Department of Communications and the Arts says mobile phone services currently reach 99 per cent of the Australian population.
But with the population and coverage, tightly clustered along the coastline, large swathes of the interior have little or no access.
Telstra reportedly reaches 99 per cent of the population and 31 per cent of Australia’s landmass, while Optus reaches 98.5 per cent of people and 13 per cent of the country’s area. For Vodafone, the figures are 96 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. Moreover, the black spots program can do little to alleviate problems caused by buildings and other construction.
Powertec aims to help customers improve their reception with the Cel-Fi smart repeater, the only mobile signal repeater approved by the carriers and registered with the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The US manufacturer of the Cel-Fi range, San Diego-based Nextivity, says its mobile signal repeaters are approved for use by nearly 200 mobile network operators in 100 countries.
McDonald says Powertec has established itself as the biggest distributor of Cel-Fi products in the world, partly by rising to the challenge of Australia’s difficult environment and partly by making the tactical decision to sell directly to consumers, not only through telcos.
Australian consumers are certainly willing to take matters into their own hands, as evidenced by the use of unapproved mobile signal repeaters.
McDonald says illegal repeaters cause interference, partly because they amplify all signals in the neighbourhood, not just the target signal.
‘‘Some signs that there is an illegal repeater in your area can be that your TV doesn’t work, and your car and garage remotes don’t work,’’ he says.
‘‘Our devices can be set to amplify a particular signal, and won’t over-amplify it, so it won’t flood the building so that other systems don’t work.’’
Powertec partners with local resellers to design and install systems for businesses hampered by connectivity problems.
A typical system involves external and internal antennas to capture the data signal coming in through the cellular network, plus stationary or mobile Cel-Fi repeaters to amplify the mobile phone signal.
McDonald says a single Cel-Fi unit can provide up to 900 square metres of coverage.
Pharmaceuticals distributor Symbion has 10 warehouses around Australia co-ordinating daily deliveries of up to 350,000 products from more than 17,000 product lines supplied by more than 540 manufacturers.
The logistical operations hit a snag when it turned out the new warehouse in western Sydney had 8000 square metres of internal space – and no signal.
The combination of antennas and a Cel-Fi GO stationary repeater enabled communications both inside the building and with delivery drivers and other external partners. Read more about the installation here.
Village Roadshow wanted to move to a cashless payment system, using Telstra 3G SIM cards, for all arcade games at its Sea World Nara Resort on the Gold Coast. Its plans were frustrated by a heavy tint on the doors of the Arcade Room.
McDonald says that since Powertec was brought in, ‘‘profits have increased by 30 per cent across the board for all arcade areas in the many theme parks operated by Village Roadshow’’.
At Goondiwindi, in Queensland near the NSW border, a cattle yard business wanted to capture data straight from the cattle in the crush and load it directly onto the server in town, 40 kilometres away. The site had no mains power and weak signal coverage. Powertec set up a solar-powered installation with a battery in a metal enclosure and a Cel-Fi GO stationary repeater, locked to 3G, to provide better mobile coverage for everyone on the Telstra network.
Craig and Kelly Malloy equipped their 4×4 vehicle with a Cel-Fi GO mobile booster when they took their children on a 10-month odyssey around Australia.
Craig says the couple was able to continue running their marketing business from the road, including doing a video-conference call from Muttee Head about 70 kilometres from the tip of Cape York.
“Our devices can be set to amplify a particular signal, and won’t overamplify it, so it won’t flood the building so that other systems don’t work.”Ran McDonald
Original article by Financial Review Digital Edition – Thursday 15, August 2019 www.afr.com