« | | | 18th October 2020

Balonne, Queensland

Background

The Balonne Shire Council Digital Connectivity Project is a strategic and staged project that focuses on the area of internet connectivity.

An added benefit of the project could be the possibility to investigate the use of the towers for further connectivity upgrades and IOT (Internet of Things) gateways.

Stage 1 is proudly funded by the Queensland Government’s Building Our Regions program. Stages 3 and 4 have been made possible with funding by the Australian Government under the Murray–Darling Basin Economic Development Program.

Site Selection and Preparations

Field Solutions Group, the appointed network operator for the Balonne Digital Connectivity Project, has now completed all geo technical studies and soil sampling for the new tower sites.
Updates on the final locations of towers will be made available by Field Solutions Group by the end of October 2020.

23 October 2020 UPDATE : Final PoP locations for Stages 1, 3 and 4 can be found here

Field Solutions Network – Balonne Shire Council Network Points of Presence

Retail Plans and Next Steps

When the construction phase is complete, the infrastructure will be owned and operated by Field Solutions Group. The network will provide wholesale broadband to retailers i.e. internet service providers (ISP) or retail service providers (RSP) who offer the internet plans to end-users (customers).

Field Solutions Group will run update information sessions at the end of November 2020.

Indicative Plans (subject to confirmation)

At launch, retail plans will be available from Field Solutions’ retail  group (including JustISP) and other wholesalers who may choose to resell services in the region. The table below shows indicative consumer pricing which will be confirmed by December 2020.

Plan Type

Monthly

Installation*

Residential 25/10mbps

$149

from $399

Residential 50/20mbps

$199

from $399

Residential 100/20mbps

$299

from $399

Business 10/10mbps

$219

TBA

Business 50/50mbps

$719

TBA

Business 100/100mbps

$1100

TBA

Speeds up to 1000/1000mbps available.
*Installation will depend on distance from nearest point of presence.

Note: There may already be fixed wireless solutions available to end-users (customers), or, other internet solutions available, end-users will need to make their own decision on which plans and ISPs they want to utilise for their homes or businesses. Council has no commercial relationship with any ISP. Before relying on any information or offers made by an ISP, end-users must undertake the necessary due diligence.

FAQs

What is the project about?
A strategic approach to solve digital connectivity issues in the Shire, involving the construction of backbone infrastructure and technology to deliver internet connectivity into the Shire, that is, up to 45 m towers and asset re-use such as water towers and grain silos.

Balonne Shire Council facilitated the delivery of this project by sourcing funding and Council will provide overall project management and oversight. Once each stage is complete, the infrastructure will be owned and operated by the appointed network operator, Field Solutions Group. The network will provide wholesale broadband to internet service provider (ISP) retailer(s) who provide retail internet plans.

Note: More information will be made available by Field Solutions Group regarding the approved ISP retailer(s) for their network. There may already be fixed wireless solutions available to end-users (customers), or, other internet solutions available and therefore end-users will need to make their own decision on which plans and ISPs they want to utilise for their homes or businesses and undertake the necessary due diligence when selecting any retail plans. Council has no commercial relationship with any ISP.

Where will the PoPs be located?
Exact tower locations will be confirmed once site negotiations have been completed. Towers/POPs will be both ‘in’ townships and ‘out of town’ on rural lands (as negotiated). There will be twelve (12) points of presence deployed in the current project.
How long does it take to build the towers?
The towers are expected to be built by 30 December 2020, with a contingency of 28 February 2021 due to Covid-19.
What are the confirmed stages?
Stage 1 – St George, Dirranbandi, Hebel and Thallon1 Stage 3 – MDBEDP2 defined areas (St George surrounds) Stage 4 – MDBEDP defined areas (Dirranbandi surrounds)
1 Final Stage 1 design (including tower-POP locations) depends on land access negotiations
2 MDBEDP – Murray–Darling Economic Development Program (Australian Government).
What about the other stages?
Grants are being actively sought for additonal stages. An announcement on Stage 5 – Mungindi-Thallon is expected by October 30.
What is the project value?
$2M grant for three (3) stages  + Field Solutions Group contribution
What sort of “internet” solution is it?
Licensed fixed wireless is the communication medium we are primarily utilising. Symmetrical bandwidth will be available, with guaranteed speeds and unlimited usage.
How will I know if I can get fixed wireless coverage from the network towers?
Line of sight and the distance from the proposed tower are the key factors in determining end-user coverage. That is, the signal must be transmitted, without obstacles interrupting the signal, from the backbone tower to your location (out of town this may require ‘getting up above the tree line’ in some cases). Consultation and detailed coverage modelling on coverage options will be the next step. In subsequent phases, we may also deploy additional technologies which will reduce the line of sight requirement.
What sort of plans are available?
Initially Residential and Business internet plans will be available, as well as voice (telephone plans) for both residential and enterprise voice systems. Internet speeds from 25/5mbps all the way to 100/40mbps for home and up to 1000/1000mbps for business will be available. All internet plans from FSG are offered with no data caps (unlimited) – note unlimited plans are still subject to fair use policies. In subsequent phases, Field Solutions may expand the product offering to include mobility solutions leveraging as well. Please note that each ISP may design their own offerings based on Field Solutions’ wholesale products so pricing and plans may differ slightly. Finally please note Council has no commercial relationship with any ISP.
What about IOT and LoRaWAN® ?
The LoRaWAN® is not a ‘connectivity solution’. Business needs now, and, into the future, may require a good, strong reliable connection, in addition to, LoRaWAN®. The LoRaWAN® specification is a Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) networking protocol designed to wirelessly connect battery operated ‘things’ to the internet. FSG have advised they will encourage partnerships, with third party technology partners, to access the new infrastructure to provide further services to the community.
What if I am out of the “line of sight” of the tower / POP?
There may still be options for those locations that are out of the footprint covered by the towers / infrastructure. Please contact us and we can assess whether your property falls in a current project coverage, a future one or if a custom network extension is required. 

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