The solution uses Pivotel’s 4G ecoSphere technology, a customised LTE network for sites or properties that allows users to maximise safety and optimise operational efficiency, providing secure telephony, data, video, tracking and monitoring connections for on-site and remote assets and personnel - mainly used for rural and remote Austarlia where existing 4G LTE networks are unavailable.
Pivotel says the networks have been built with support and grant funding from the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD).
We’re told “the networks are made up of largely solar powered mobile towers that employ the latest Nokia small cell technology, providing an energy efficient and cost-effective way to solve the communication and connectivity challenges experienced by farmers across the country.
“The networks provide high speed fixed and mobile coverage to a combined area of 4,572km2. The farms served by these networks are able to connect their homesteads and outbuildings to a low latency internet service, enabling farmers to connect their tablets and mobile phones from nearly any location on their property while deploying IOT technologies for video monitoring and sensors.”
Pivotel has collaborated with WA grower groups Stirlings to Coast Farmers and Facey Group for the duration of the project and a number of local farmers have participated in the successful trials across both the Wickepin and Mount Barker regions.
According to Pivotel Group CEO Peter Bolger, such collaboration is critical, stating: “Community networks, such as the Mt Barker and Wickepin networks, would not come to fruition without the support and engagement of the grower groups, farmers and local government, as well as the financial contribution from the State Government.
Stirlings to Coast Farmers CEO Nathan Dovey said connectivity is an ongoing issue for farmers and regional communities: "The biggest challenge for regional farmers is reliable internet and decent data speeds. Existing network coverage in the region comes with issues such as limited data usage and latency issues which can make voice or zoom calls lagged. At a productivity level, it’s just very hard to do anything.
“Now we’ve got farmers who are probably getting internet speeds 20 times faster than their original network connection was. It is that consistency of internet connection that is a really big win on the Pivotel network.
“Our farmers are using the network to look at weather stations, rain gauges, soil moisture, probes from anywhere, whether at the shed or in the house. We’re also seeing the network being used to monitor tank water usage to make sure that livestock have enough water and putting on condition, and also for property security measures to monitor vehicles coming in and out.
“I’m excited about this technology that is enabling our farmers to have better knowledge of what is going on in their paddocks and ways to improve productivity in real-time,” Dovey concluded.
Local Mount Barker farmer Nathan Crosby became involved in the Pivotel trial during 2019 and reiterated the importance of regional connectivity for the future of farming: "Our fourth-generation family farm is a broad acre cropping farm. We’ve historically struggled with connection across the entire farm with black spots for phone signals.
“The network is making our operations a lot safer. We often have workers working more than 10 kilometres away from anyone, and if something goes wrong, they’ve now got phone signal and can call for help – which is quite a big win for us.
“We’ve been able to set up weather stations, which are really handy from a wind and rainfall point of view. It’s quite easy to jump on your phone and have a look on the app and see what the wind is doing outside of the cab which can help us make decisions based around spreading and spraying,” added Crosby.
Focusing on improving safety, reliability and business efficiencies in industries across rural Australia, Pivotel Group CEO Peter Bolger said the ecoSphere service targets the vast land mass of Australia that is not covered by the major mobile telecommunication companies.
“Pivotel is committed to improving connectivity for individuals, businesses and communities based in regional Australia. We’ve invested in developing technology and infrastructure that provides cost-effective network coverage in places that other telcos won’t go.”
“Improved and reliable network coverage has the power to unleash significant agricultural innovation in regional areas of Australia, empowering farmers to work smarter, lower costs, increase productivity and yields, and importantly, improve safety.”
“It’s with great pride that we launch these two networks and embark on a journey to continue to deliver the connectivity needs of these communities today and into the future,” Bolger concluded.
Voice calls and messaging over the 4G network is supported using Pivotel’s purpose-built voice and SMS over IP service, PATT (Pivotel App for Talk and Text).
More information on Pivotel’s network services is here.