Wireless broadband lets remote council administer infrastructure without wires

Hinchinbrook Shire Council is using wireless broadband to improve its services.

Located in remote north Queensland, Hinchinbrook Shire Council provides a wide range of services to over 12,000 residents, covering an area of 2600 square kilometres - roughly three times the size of Canberra.

The council provides a diverse range of services and facilities to its residents, including maintaining roads, operating the water and sewerage infrastructure, and supporting the State Emergency Services (SES). Owing to the size of the shire and the council’s limited resources, the council needed to ensure the quality of the services provided to its residents, particularly in the shire’s remote areas.

To manage this large geographic area, the council needed to find a remote access solution that could increase productivity and efficiency to improve its service delivery. The council chose the Telstra Next G network as the best solution to meet its specific requirements. Telstra equipped the council’s mobile employees with Next G wireless cards and developed a total managed solution that incorporated the Next G network into the council’s total telecommunications package.

The team noticed immediate returns. “I’m on call 24/7 and when I’m out on the road I need to respond to situations as soon as possible,” said Hinchinbrook IT Manager Colin Valinoti.

“Our area supervisors now have ruggedised laptops and Telstra Next G modems, which means that they can act on work requests and job costings on the road without returning to the office. Given the long distances in the shire, this will provide major productivity improvements as council supervisors can reduce the time they spend in the office by 30%.”

Valinoti believes that the key benefit is the ability to use limited resources more efficiently and economically to improve services to the shire, as staff can now perform a range of tasks remotely, such as fixing and monitoring water and sewerage pumps.

“By being able to identify where a pump is failing and go straight back to the site to fix it, this saves 15 hours a week in management and travelling time. Should the council’s UPS’s [uninterruptible power supplies] lose power, I can also shut down servers remotely. This helps to avoid server crashes that can take seven to eight hours to get back to a stable state of production - saving the council over $15,000 during the storm season alone,” he added.

The community has also been able to benefit from the Next G coverage, particularly with the SES and the potential to save lives. Staff can call for an ambulance or the police from the site of an emergency instead of having to drive to an area with good reception, potentially saving a good half hour’s drive each time.

The council is looking to further improve its service abilities through hosted IP telephony, which offers a range of features that can help improve staff productivity.

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