New hotspot technology is being used to boost mobile phone coverage in remote areas of the Northern Territory and potentially get travellers out of serious trouble.
The hope is that the hotspots will enable grey nomads or other adventurers to call for help in the event of getting bogged or running into mechanical issues.
Dr Steve Rogers, the CEO of the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) which developed the hotspots, told the ABC that the technology can increase the distance you can get a signal from a mobile phone tower by to up to 40 kilometres.
“What that dish does is it collects the signal and then it focuses that signal down to your mobile phone that’s sitting in the fibreglass pole,” he said. “And you set your phone to hands free and you can get a pretty strong signal and you can text, talk to someone, even download data.”
Two new hotspots have been set up along a bush track about 120km west of Alice Springs, which is notorious for visitors getting bogged a they head into Finke Gorge National Park. Previously, the mobile phone signal on the well-named Boggy Hole access track was too weak to access. The locations were picked in collaboration with traditional owners and determined by finding areas with enough residual signal for it to work.
“It helps tourists and other people call for help when they get bogged,” traditional owner and outstation resident, Kunmanara Ungwanaka, told the ABC. “It’s keeping them safe and giving us privacy and less worry.”
The Centre for Appropriate Technology is now looking at external partnerships to extend the technology further.
“It doesn’t need any power, it doesn’t need any maintenance, and there’s no moving parts,” said CAT’s Mr Rogers. “You could put these up along the Stuart Highway, truckstops … there’s a whole range of different opportunities right across Australia.”
• Where else would you like to see these hotspots installed?