Wi-Fi-plus for West Coast group

A small community on the South Island's West Coast is benefiting from a wireless system that operates in the 2.4GHz band but isn't Wi-Fi.

A small community on the South Island’s West Coast is benefiting from a wireless system that operates in the 2.4GHz band but isn’t Wi-Fi.

The Gloriaville Christian Community, 30km inland from Greymouth at Lake Brunner, gets its income from a sphagnum moss export business, a dairy farm and a helicopter and light aircraft parts-repair business.

Community spokesman Perry Just says the community had been negotiating with Telecom for 10 years to get better internet access than the 8kbit/s or 9kbit/s it was receiving.

“Nothing came of it, but then again Telecom never knew there would be any more demand than a couple of farmers.”

The community was established 12 years ago in the Haupiri Basin and has more than 300 members. It is serviced by two pre-schools and a primary and secondary school.

“Everyone needs access to the internet as a learning resource,” says Just.

In January, work started on the project. It was completed in April. The bill came to more than $100,000, Just says, mainly due to the cost of installing a repeater on nearby Mt Granite using a helicopter.

Ian Hastie, director of wireless systems integrator Linkit, says Gloriaville is using Wi-Fi equipment with third-party “smart polling” software to offer quality of service conventional Wi-Fi installations can’t. The Wi-Fi standard, also known as 802.11b, enables a wireless network in the 2.4GHz band over short distances.

“I’ve put in quite a few Wi-Fi WANs and it’s okay for 2km to 3km cells,” says Hastie, “but when you get up to 17km like Gloriaville you need something that does better time-slice management. Not all networks are the same at the network access point and we’ve used proprietary third-party software to take care of that at Gloriaville.”

VoIP is being run on top of the wireless link, to connect the community’s PBX, while faxes are being received as email attachments. There are also plans to have telemarketers work from the community, Just says.

At present, Gloriaville is communicating with the outside world at 56kbit/s, he says, “because there’s no ADSL or frame relay circuit to get dedicated bandwidth to my servers yet.”

He is working on getting frame relay. He and Hastie say the present arrangement is an interim measure.

When the frame relay link is completed, the community will have several megabits of bandwidth at its disposal. “It would have been 5.5Mbit/s from an 11Mbit/s radio, but with the repeater it’s 4Mbit/s,” Hastie says.

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