Better Broadband For Tiwi Islands

While it's not the standard of connectivity most Australians enjoy, many residents of and businesses on the Tiwi Islands should now have better broadband access.

For a couple of communities, it seems it may be the first time they've had broadband service of any kind.

Broadband in the Tiwi Islands

The Tiwi Islands are situated off the coast of Darwin.  Melville and Bathurst Islands are inhabited (population ~2,453) and there are nine other smaller uninhabited islands in the group. Connectivity has always been problematic for Tiwi Islanders, but there have been moves over the last couple of years to improve the situation.

Back in 2018, the Northern Territory Government kicked off an $8.5 million project to establish a 60km undersea optic fibre cable to the Islands, which was constructed by Vocus - one of Lightning Broadband's IP transit providers.

More recently, a $3.4m upgrade of telecommunications and transmission infrastructure has been completed. Part of a partnership between Telstra and the Northern Territory Government, it involved upgraded radio systems in key townships and upgraded batteries and solar capacity to provide longer connectivity during mains electricity outages.

The project also saw upgrading of ADSL1 to ADSL2+ (remember ADSL?) at Wurrumiyanga, and broadband was enabled at Pirlangimpi and Milikapiti with ADSL2+ fixed line internet services.

Just to give an idea of speeds and assuming the ADSL2+ connections are solid, up to 24 Mbps download speed can be attained using that technology - but it depends on the distance from the exchange. More than a couple of kilometres and a speed drop would be very noticeable. On the upload, speeds of up to 840Kbps can be attained; but again this is when a connection is close to an exchange.

It's not would you would call ideal connectivity, but it seems like it will be a vast improvement to the situation prior and help better connect Tiwi Islanders to each other and the rest of the world.

"All Territorians deserve access to reliable mobile phone and internet services," said NT Minister for Corporate and Digital Development, Paul Kirby.

The Tiwi Islands initiative is part of a further $28M to be invested into telecommunications infrastructure at 14 remote sites across the Northern Territory under the Digital Territory Strategy.

Posted: 10 Mar 2021

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