Ecovillage Communications Network

Ecovillage Communications Network (ECN) general guidance notes

There are two fixed cable communication systems within the Ecovillage at Currumbin for internet. The fibre optic network also provides TV for free to most homes.

If you are an owner or renting in the ecovillage this information may assist you to connect to one of them if you are seeking internet, home phone or TV reception.  This webpage contains my personal advice only.  (Basic ECN information is available on the VillageHub click here. You must be logged in to Villagehub to open that webpage).

1. Traditional Copper Network

Many homes have a copper cable connected to their homes. Telstra may have installed this at the time the house was built.  If it is not present, you can tell Telstra to install such a cable (however you may have to ask a builder/electrician to bring the copper cable in from your block boundary which may be costly).

Currently the copper network provides:

  1. ASDL speeds of up to 8,000kbps ‘download’ and 384kbps upload.
  2. About 99.9% uptime in my experience.
  3. VOIP Phone Services via an ISP.  This is offered via the router and may suffer minor quality issues if the speed of your ISP plan (connection) is low.
  4. No TV signal (so if you don’t have fibre you will need a TV antenna on your roof)

Updated:  NBNco plan to roll out NBN services (via a combination of fibre in the street and copper cable to your house) in late 2017. Once installed, owners that have copper and an ADSL service will be able to upgrade to much higher speeds (from 8Mbps to 50 or 100Mbps).

To connect to the Copper network you are likely to need an Broadband capable router. As the ISP.

To connect to the ECN you currently need a WAN (not LAN) router. The ISPs typically offer these (or you can buy and configure your own).

For those who do not have copper coming into their homes, or are already using the Ecovillage Communications Network (ECN) which is a pure fibre optic system, they already have a connection that can achieve up to 34Mbps. In late 2017 though, the owner and manager of the system (Openetworks) plan to upgrade it so residents on the ECN can achieve maybe around 40 to 100Mpbs too.

If your home is using the copper (Telstra/NBN service) then you can select a range of ISPs to provide your internet service.

If you are using the ECN, you can use one of about 6 ISP options that run on the Openetworks managed system. see:

https://www.openetworks.com.au/get-connected/retailers  and

https://www.openetworks.com.au/portfolio/eco-village-currumbin-valley

1 Q/ How will high speed internet be delivered? Will it use the Telstra copper network already in place and connected to most ecovillage homes already?

A/ Yes, Fibre to the Node (FTTN) provides fast broadband by running fibre to a neighbourhood pillar/node (Villlage Way) and from there using the existing copper network- therefore, it is a mixture of both copper and optic fibre to provide high speed broadband.  Customers who already use the copper service to obtain ADSL internet will be automatically upgraded to the new network. New equipment (routers) may be required. Those using the Openetworks owned and managed “Ecovillage Communications Network” (ECN) fibre to the home (FTTH) network would be able to use either the ECN or move to the copper based NBN network (which would have many more ISPs available on it and hence more ISP Plans).

Your current service includes free-to-air TV reception through the OPENetworks full fibre network. This feature will not be available over the nbn™ network.  (Hence we’d need to talk to Openetworks about continuing that service over the ECN fibre, or take it over to avoid having to place antenna’s on all our roofs, if OPENetworks decided in future years to step away from the village).

 

2 Q/ What speeds will be available locally over the new NBN network?

A/  nbn™ ‘s FTTN services will deliver maximum wholesale speeds to retail services providers of up to 100Mbps (download) and up to 40Mbps (upload). However, speeds actually achieved over the nbn™ network depends on end-users’ copper line length to the cabinet, as well as other factors outside our control like your equipment quality, software, internet plans, the quality of the copper line and how your provider designs its network. nbn expects that around 90% of FTTN end-users will be able to get access to wholesale download speeds of up to 50Mbps. Our trials have seen many end-users getting access to speeds of 100Mbps (download) and 40Mbps (upload).

3 Q/ If I using the Telstra copper or ECN, and don’t want to change, do I need to do anything?

A/ No. Just kept your ears open for news about the new NBN and any changes that may occur to the ECN in future years.

2. The local developer installed optic fibre network (ECN)

Fibre optic cables have also been laid in the ground to around 90% of the estate which contains 147 blocks.  The optical fibre infrastructure is known as the ‘ECN’.  This system uses high speed glass cable to move data, and now connects to a fibre running underground out of the estate.  It used to use a direct microwave link the hill).  The ECN has been operating since 2006. It has had three different providers/managers in the past and service issues were experienced during times of transition. Since openetworks have taken over the service has been much more stable and residents are reporting good to high levels of satisfaction with it to me.  Note that some residents have experiences some issues/delays trying to ask Openetworks to provide new equipment for new homes, so planning months ahead is recommended.

Currently, the ECN provides:

  1. Internet – Higher speed options for those who want them. Speeds up to 100,000kbps ‘download’ and 50,000kpbs upload are possible, and you can select ISP plans with different speeds; although in the evenings users are now reporting that these speeds are much lower, we assume because of congestion on the ECN network. This may also happen on the NBN when it arrives.
  2. About 98% up-time in my experience.
  3. Fewer ISP options, compared to the copper network which most ISPs offer plans for.
  4. VOIP Phone Services via an ISP.  I only use a VOIP phone at home and it works quite well.
  5. TV reception.  Note that Openetworks are allowed to charge a monthly fee for this service however at the time of this document, they had not started charging residents (since taking ownership of the network in 2013).  TV reception is usually on by default in all homes with an ONU, and in this case the house won’t have an external TV antenna.  If you want to install an independent TV antenna you need to contact the Village Design Panel in advance. Kendal Krebs is a local TV antenna supplier: Tel. 0412761057

ECN Infrastructure Status

Blocks 100 – 321 should have fibre optic cable ready at their boundary.

Blocks 322 – 338 are may have some unterminated fibre optic cable along a nearby road but this may cost a bit more to get split and connect into your house.

For a quote to install the cable to your boundary, for from the boundary to your house, go to the Openetworks website  https://www.openetworks.com.au/portfolio/eco-village-currumbin-valley

If you are an Optical Network Unit (ONU) – a grey box in a white cabinet in your house (seewww.profiber.eu/files/Alloptic%20Home%20Gateway%20%204000.pdf ‎)  then it is likely that you are connected to the ECN.  It may however not be switched on, by Openetworks.  You can however request a new connection, but you need to do this via on of their ISPs. See below.

If you want to connect to the ECN, do this quickly, even before you move in to save having to wait. Connections can take 3 – 14 days (typically 4-5).

3.  Wireless via mobile phone signal

If you are no concerned about speeds and don’t use the internet significantly, then you may be able to rely on a wireless modem for internet.  A handful of residents at the ecovillage do this.  Note that it depends a lot on the location of your house. Some houses may be in a black spot for wireless signal.

 4.  Mobile Phone Reception in the area – note only

There is a known Telstra mobile phone black spot that affects a parts of the Ecovillage estate.  Most residents prefer to use an Optus based mobile phone company such as Optus, Virgin Mobile, Amaysim, TPG etc.  Coverage from Optus and similar providers can also be patchy depending on where your house is so we recommend you test it.   Mobile phone provider reference: http://www.idd.com.au/mobile-providers.php

Contacts:

Openetworks – owners and managers of the ECN infrastructure

see  https://www.openetworks.com.au/support/contact-us

https://www.openetworks.com.au/get-connected/retailers  and

https://www.openetworks.com.au/portfolio/eco-village-currumbin-valley

Only contact Openetworks for infrastructure issues, TV signal issues and new ONU requests.

If you have an ONU with power to it, you must request a new ISP plan and connection by contacting one of the ISPs (not Openetworks who are wholesalers not retailers). To get a new plan using the ECN, contact an ISP (see above links). I recommend the Internode plans.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) options

Openetworks must provide multiple ISP options for residents.

https://www.openetworks.com.au/portfolio/eco-village-currumbin-valley

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are sometimes called Retail Service Providers (RSPs).

Due some bad experiences and only partial services from other ISPs, the only ISP I recommend is Internode. They are a top 5 Australian ISP company and now owned by iiNet.  (update August 2015:  Exetel (and others) are now available as ISPs for the ECN and is a touch cheaper and may be worth trying. Note that they have taken longer to connect people and have struggled to configure VOIP correctly for their second customer in the ecovillage).

To use the ECN, you cannot request a standard (ADSL) plan.  You must select a special plan from the Fibre to the Home plans they offer:  see

http://www.internode.on.net/residential/fibre_to_the_home/estates/

Read also their Critical Information Summary  http://www.internode.on.net/pdf/legal/cis/cis-internode-fttp-estates.pdf

If you are going to be at the premises for more than 4 months, it is generally most cost effective to sign up to one of their 24 month plans as the cancellation fee is low and pro rate.

For VOIP phone plan options from Internode see:

http://www.internode.on.net/residential/phone_and_voip/nodephone_voip/

and

http://www.internode.on.net/pdf/legal/cis/cis-internode-nodephone.pdf

Equipment/Hardware Requirements

To connect to the ECN you will need a Gigabit WAN router. This connects to Port 1 at the bottom of your ONU.  Port 2 is used for the IMCS system (e.g. Ecovision). Ports 3 and 4 are not active.

A LAN Router will not suffice.  WAN routers with a WAN port are required.

I have installed and used the Internode recommended Routers – see http://www.internode.on.net/residential/fibre_to_the_home/hardware/  which are good but pricey.

and also a Netcomm WAN router with success: http://www.getprice.com.au/netcomm-nb16wv-modem.htm

Internode sends routers pre-configured and can also rent them to you. Note that Internode’s default instructions in the pack may not work, depending on what they send you.

Note that if you want the option of using Internode’s VOIP services, then you will need a Modem with  POTS/ATA port (analogue phone port) on it.  Then you can use an old analogue phone on it.

If you want to use a different VOIP provider you can do this and would then need an extra ATA adapter or VOIP Phone with an ATA inside it.  http://whirlpool.net.au/wiki/voip_which_hardware

Engin and MyNetFone are common VOIP Providers.  If you want a local VOIP number, ensure they assign you an 07 55xx xxxxx number rather than a Brisbane number. Their first level help desk may not offer this, but they can provide a local number.

Wall Ports

If you want to make a lot of ports live around your house, you may need a Router with a lot of spare ports.  Alternatively you can buy a router with multi-directional wireless and try and use that which may reach most rooms in your house.

Connecting your TV or PVR to the Internet

Some TVs or PVRs will give you access to internet delivered television or repeat stations such has ABC’s iView, so you don’t miss a show –  if you connect your TV to your house’s internet.  More: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/hometech/fiveway-shootout-catchup-tv-20120901-251ja.html

Generic Recommendations

If you value some extra speed, and don’t mind an outage a couple of times per year, then I would use the ECN and sign up to an Internode package. This is especially easy if you have an ONU already.

If you are on a Telstra/bigpond plan or similar (or don’t need the extra speed or want a choice of a wider range of ISPs) it may be better to connect to the Copper network.

ONU power

Inside the cabinet in older homes, there may be an old UPS for backup power. These are getting old and many residents have asked OPENetworks to fix these when they have failed. It is possible to change these over early to avoid a likely future outage. A new power transformer is used to bypass the UPS (and remove it). Contact me if you would like more information on this.

Further Advice?

Each ‘house’ and the ‘needs of the residents’ often differs so I recommend obtaining verbal advice as well.  Or if you need assistance checking the status of your house, filling out an application form or installing the router you can another ecovillage resident, your builder, electrician or IT professional – or me; the first 15 minutes of my time is free for new Ecovillage residents, after which a discounted ecovillage hourly rate of $60 + GST applies. If you would like to contact me please use this contact form and explain your queries and I will get back to you, in 1-4 hours in most cases.

Disclaimer

This information is provided by Ben O’Callaghan, resident of the Ecovillage since 2009 and involved since 2005. Ben coordinated the installation of the ECN in 2006. The information is supplied as general information only and using my experience and opinion. No responsibility can be taken for its accuracy, as things may have changed since it was written.  It is not provided for or by the body corporate of the Ecovillage.

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