Tze Internut …

Now that I’ve explained the relative make up of the structure of Atamai, I can explain other things a bit better. If you missed that explanation, look here:

One clarification about Atamai’s internet capability. The village is meant to be hooked up via fibre optic cable internally (the so called “intranet”) and that will come at a cost to the developer (ADL) and is included in the price of the section. However Atamai doesn’t currently stipulate how it will connect to the internet. That is to be determined by the village council (AVC).

The present story …

At present the village is located in an area where marginal rural ADSL is available. This means ~2mbps downloads and ~500kbps uploads during non-peak periods (per line).  However because it is on the fringe of the service, the ADSL modems here have to be occasionally reset, some days a lot more than others. If you complain too much to telecom they will say:

“Technically you shouldn’t be getting it, perhaps it is better if we cancel that service on your lines so we don’t have to deal with your complaints.”

… to that Atamai has no choice but to say …

 “No, that’s ok, we’ll keep on resetting out modems”.

A Chorus man cleaned out some corroded wires in the exchange box lately and things have been better however… you got to wonder sometimes about these guys who are quite willing to charge you a huge price for a crap product!

There are about 7 lines coming into the entry of the village on the south-eastern side (the side closest to the Motueka township), not all of which are currently utilised. This is probably ok for the time being and should serve the village in its growth phase, but the demand for bandwidth will quickly and surely increase as more people come and live in the village – especially seeing that most people who are seriously considering the move here are based in the IT or technology industries (basically those who want to work remotely). Currently some of the lines are shared, each over their own subnets - but in the future the ADSL service might get lumped into an arbiter which could shuttle packets across an aggregated number of ADSL lines. It’s not so simple however as the IP addresses need to remain fixed for the sessions, which in essence might end up tying the user to a particular line anyway. For now, just sharing the each of the lines separately works well.

As an alternative, Atamai has relatively good reception for Vodafone 3G mobile broadband. Where we are, the signal strength is 2-3 bars out of 5, which actually is better than in the some areas of the township which averages 1 bar. It isn’t 100% reliable however as sometimes 3G goes missing and GPRS takes its place, a slow crawl. Vodafone has been upgrading its network around these parts, so the recent outages might be related to that upgrade. Mobile broadband is super expensive however with Vodafone charging $25/Gig, ouch!

We live on the north-western end of that Atamai hill. On this end we don’t get ADSL delivery on the phone lines. So ADSL has to be piped in from the south-eastern end which is over linear 1-2km of cabling (crossing several land ownership boundaries) hence not particularly feasible economically. What the village has put in place however is a 5Ghz wireless bridge/repeater units on the top of the hill, and wireless transceivers at the south-eastern end (where the router and server are situated) and the north-western end where the house is situated. 

This creates interesting problems of its own because the repeater on the hill needs power to operate (ie. An active system rather than a passive one). In a true rural situation this would mean solar energy harvesting and sizing of the batteries to last several couldy days - a sizable expense. But in the case of Atamai’s hill, there was conveniently a power junction box nearby that could be tapped into. As the power requirements for the repeater box was too small to meter, an application was made to the power lines company to have an unmetered electricity connection, which was granted (ie. Yuss FREE POWER!!). The caveat however is that the normal lines fee is applicable and will need to be met by the users of that link – ie. me :(.  Fortunately, the land where the tower (ala broom stick!) is located is owned by one of the Atamai investors so no problem about that! Here is what it looks like:
The tower

The box at the top where power is piped in. You can see two power over ethernet devices to power the repeater/bridge units, as well as a switch to connect them.

You can only just see the cottage in the middle of the picture, it's hiding behind the tree - not the big barn looking thing further up.

You can only just see the hangar in the middle of this picture

Picture of what the transceiver unit looks like, quite a small thing, capable of 150Mbps up to 5km (ish), truly best of the best case - more like 2km line of sight in real life.

This system only went live today however, hence I had been depending on a Vodem stick up till now. Trying to keep internet usage to under 100Mbytes per day does take some discipline – no You Tube that’s for sure.

The Future…

Eventually the AVC could consider a satellite link, a microwave link or a fibre optic hook up – or some aggregate of the lot including ADSL just so there is more redundancy in the system. A bit overkill however, and it will boil down to setup and on going costs.

Satellite is ok except that it can be quite pricey, has long latencies, and not that robust during some weather conditions. Microwave is perhaps not that bad but a repeating tower is needed to get around one hill which is blocking line of sight to the nearest node. Each tower costs about $15K (2 will be needed minimum), and then there are bandwidth costs on top of that.

Fibre is an interesting option. The closest national backbone fibre trunk is about $70K away with line leasing costs there after of about $1.5K/month. This may sound super expensive, but it would be highly reliable and speeds of 100Mbit/s may be achievable (although leasing prices might vary depending on bandwidth delivery). The capital cost is sizable but the advantages and future proofing can’t be understated.

As a villager and a bit of a tech geek, I get to be part of the process that stipulates which gets chosen and how it will be implemented – sounds like fun. But we will have to wait and see how things pan out over the next few years – it might be ADSL until then.

Until next time ...

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