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Project gets far north talking

A $25 MILLION project combining new wireless technology and existing cable technology is poised to link remote communities in the State’s far north and provide its subscribers with easy Internet access and cheaper telephone calls.

Bushtel Australia Ltd, an unlisted Australian company that holds a broad band radio licence in the Kimberley, has joined forces with technology developer CISCO Systems, telecommunications service pro-vider COMindico and Kimberley education institutions for the project.

Rather than relying on the traditional, and expensive, option of rolling out more telephone lines, remote locations around the region will be linked to a central base station in Broome via radio signals transmitted by wireless devices.

The base station is then hooked up to an Internet service provider via fibre-optic cable.

A six-week trial of the new technology will start in September, linking the remote Aboriginal community of One Arm Point to Broome, which is more than 200 kilometres away.

Bushtel managing director Greg Travelstead said that, if the trial was successful, the company would raise two thirds of the capital needed to roll out the technology by means of a float on the Australian Stock Exchange. The rest would be debt financed.

Mr Travelstead said the project, titled Bush Telegraph, would prove invaluable to the region.

“The Bush Telegraph will be able to be used in distance learning, including tele-medicine, things which can not be done over dial-up telephone lines,” he said.

“And once the infrastructure is there, we hope other people will use the infrastructure in ways we have not yet imagined.”

Mr Travelstead said the terrestrial wireless technology also could be used to link subscribers to pay-TV and to cut telephone rates significantly.

CISCO Certified Accredited Instructor David Zanich said the innovative use of the new wireless technology was a cheaper and easier solution to the problem of delivering technology to remote areas.

“Most Internet traffic is carried by fibre-optic cables but it is expensive to keep rolling them out, especially in remote areas,” he said.

“It is a much cheaper solution to put up an antenna and transmit the signals.”

Cheaper telephone calls can be made by linking handsets to a computer fitted with a wireless device. The Bush Telegraph also will have the opportunity to take advantage of the developing CISCO Kimberley workforce.

CISCO Systems is working in partnership with Notre Dame University Broome campus, Kimberley College of TAFE, Broome Senior High School and St Mary’s College to train information technology students in the workings of the new wireless technology.

Kimberley TAFE is the first to start offering the CISCO teacher-led online course, which qualifies students as CISCO Certified Networking Ad-ministrators.

Kimberley TAFE CISCO lecturer John Collins said once students had com-pleted the year-long course, they would be eligible for local CISCO employment opportunities.

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