Vodafone Australia has trialed a mobile coverage solution for the outback that will enable farmers to set up their own 4G coverage with a roof-mounted hub device that also includes support for NB-IoT.
The Vodafone ‘Regional Coverage Hub’ is a plug-and-play device developed by Nokia that delivers 4G voice and data services in locations where coverage is patchy or unavailable. It also provides NB-IoT connectivity, giving farmers the opportunity to evolve and automate their processes via agriculture and farming IoT solutions.
The six week trial took place near Ballarat Victoria using two hub devices. The devices delivered 4G coverage across more than eight square kilometres of a potato farm owned by Scott Dimond.
“For as long as I can remember there has never been any choice out here for mobile providers. If coverage is bad or the cost is too much, there’s really no other option – you have to make it work,” he said. “Having the option to look at more than one telco is an exciting prospect and the Hub has made it more realistic than it’s ever been before.”
Vodafone says the device – approximately twice the size of a standard modem – can be quickly and easily installed on a roof or exterior wall of a property by plugging it into a power source and connecting it to an existing broadband internet connection (although the trial used Vodafone’s mobile network for the backhaul link).
Vodafone is also exploring ways to use the device with NBN’s satellite service.
“Providing a self-install solution removes the dependency that regional communities and farmers have on mobile operators,” said Vodafone CTO Kevin Millroy.
Vodafone intends to launch the hub commercially in the second half of 2019.