How I Skipped The NBN Waiting List To Get 70Mbps Download Speeds

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Poor bandwidth makes downloading content and working in the cloud impractical. Like many Australians, these are two activities that have become critical to the way I live my life. When the NBN skipped my house because it was in the older stages of the estate I live in, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Note: We previously published a story about Daniel Saffioti's DIY NBN connection. Several readers requested more information so here is the original blog post, republished with permission. Enjoy!

Like many folks in the Illawarra I have lived off small pipes to the Internet for a long time. I currently live in Haywards Bay (south of Wollongong) and have a DSL service which is not the fastest. While 8 Megabits as a download speed sounds sort of fine, it isn't overly great because of a variety of issues one being contention. This is further aggravated by terrible upload speeds.

When a NBNCo fibre pillar turns up, right in front of your house, there was glimmer of hope... This pillar turned up in August 2014, two years ago.

Well the hope was short lived when it happened to me. As it turns out the NBNCo Fibre Pillar was to serve the newer stages of Haywards Bay, not the residences in older stages of the estate. This pillar uses a Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) technology.

Over the last few months however, the older stages of the estate started getting NBN via the Fibre To The Node (FTTN) technology.

Despite this, for the last two years I've been experiencing good internet access because I have was curious and maybe a little desperate. I believe technology fosters creativity and curiosity and as such I saw this an an opportunity to combine my love for technology and problem solving with the goal of coming up with a solution.

How? Well its all around the use of radio's in the 5GhZ spectrum, nifty network routing and the use of some cool technology/ kit. All this was achieved for a few hundred dollars which is pretty good, considering how much work I have been able to get done at home.

A few years ago I bought a Ubiquti Nanobridge-M radio which are able to achieve over 150 Megabits of throughput and can run in bridge mode with its peer for distances up to 30 kilometres. The radio's run Ubiquiti's AirOS operating system which is accessible via HTTP and SSH, supports a number of operating modes and has good security. Its incredibly effective at an amazingly ridiculous price point.

So I had a platform to transmit packets over long distances.

The next challenge was to find a peer that had access to the internet via a NBN Optical service, that would be kind enough to let me use it. This peer would become a Point of Presence (POP). I eventually found one that was about 15 kilometres away around Kiama/Kiama Downs/Minnamurra area. This person had been a long time friend of mine and was keen to be involved in the experiment.

The only problem was we did not have line of sight (it is important for radio networks to have line of sight which can be impacted by terrain and vegetation). In pursuit of great internet speeds we had to find someone who would agree to create a POP between us. We found someone who was keen, well my friend did. As it turns out a family member who had poor internet access happened to live on a hill that over looked our suburbs.

As such we have created a mesh network that looks a little like this.

There are three POP's A, B and C (me), with encrypted (using a pre-shared key) radio circuits connecting each of them. To achieve this, each POP has dishes installed pointing in the respective directions. Each circuit between the POP's exists in the public spectrum (hence no need to license with the regulator, but you need to be mindful of the rules) and can achieve speeds up to 200 Megabits a second.

POP's A and C are interesting because they both have connections to the Internet, with POP A having the largest and fastest circuit (100Megabits/ 40 Megabits). Given this the objective was to by default funnel all traffic via POP A and in event of failure i.e. the link between POP A and B being lost, funnel traffic out via POP C. To allow this to occur all sites participate in a Open Shorterst Path First (OSPF) area which allows the routes to be shared. From a technology perspective all sites had to have OSPF capable routers. The Ubiquiti Edge Router Lite was selected because it provides full support for a number of networking protocols in a very efficient and cost effective package. When the primary egress/ingress circuit is lost (i.e. NBN in Kiama), all traffic is funnelled out of my DSL service (not so good but certainly workable).

Here is an example of the routing table for this environment at POP C. You might notice there is a static route which becomes the default route for all when the primary route is lost.

Here is a screenshot of the actual bridges (I have removed the frequencies and channel number).

So the totality of the technology, protocols and points of presence allows us to provide high speed internet access to a number of parties who would other wise not had it. The topology of the network looks like this:

Regardless of the weather, wind or other events the environment is robust again a testament to the design, technology and the protocols being used. By far the biggest issue we have is power, but this is easily fixed with UPS's.

That said a few weeks ago we had an outage with POP B, leaving POP C to fail over to a slow link. This was a painful experience for me, as it made tasks which had become easy so time intensive and difficult. I can say with great confidence that we take high speed internet access for granted once we have it... When we lose it, we move quickly to rectify it.

The biggest complication with all this is ensuring you abide by the rules set out by the ACMA. For example there is a document on the ACMA website called Radio Communications (Low Interference Potential Devices) Class License 2015. This document outlines the maximum power and frequency ranges you can use in this license. While the Ubiquiti gear out of the box will work happily, you need to spend some time to ensure it complies with the appropriate rules. Antenna design is also an important consideration here.

People often ask can anyone do this? The answer is yes but it does require some understanding and mindfulness. There are a few tricky bits (like the one above) but overall its a easy and relatively fun (well I think so at least).

So why did I write this article? The first reason is to show that as technology professionals we must set ourselves challenges which can be fun, rewarding and an adventure. The second reason is again to highlight how we as individuals have become so dependant on high speed access, more importantly the creative techniques some will employ to get it

What would you do to get great internet access?

This story was originally published on Daniel Saffioti's LinkedIn blog.


    "What would you do to get great internet access?"

    Move to a suburb with FTTP. I'm looking to buy a house over the next few years and this is definitely one of my key requirements.

      or move to New Zealand where uncapped gigabit fibre broadband is sold often for the same price as ADSL.

        Isn't that what MyRepublic's (Singaporean/Kiwi startup) business model is? The highest speeds your line can achieve for 60 dollars per month?

          It's not the highest speed your line can achieve. It's the highest speed you can achieve with severely undersupplied capacity. It's great if I can hit 98mbps at noon on a weekday, not so great when it drops to 3 in the evening. I recently signed up on contract but am going to drop it with due to them not honouring a decent service. Thankyou ACCC.

            Im getting 800-900Mbps most times of the day. My connection is unlimited and costs $89 a month

    I have considered this for various purposes but my issue always comes back to the fact that I'm a single story unit surrounded by 3 story apt. buildings.. The only LOS I could get would be to Mt. Dandenong so if anyone on the mountain has NBN hit me up!

    Considered this long ago.
    Article doesn't state how you calculate line of site. Most people use google earth. You draw a line between the two houses and then view the elevation map. Mine was quite clear that there are multiple hills in the way, and that's not taking into account of man made structures that would be in the way too. and I didn't have any buddies half way either. another solution that was put to me was (the fiber pillar is out the frontof my house but only neighbours have it ,etc) most FTTP NTP's have more than one port! ask your neighbour if you can get another ISP connected to it then run a wifi bride between there house and yours. it's closer and if something goes wrong it's a short work to fix not a drive ,etc.

      You calculate line of sight by looking. If you can see it, you have line of sight.

        Funny and nearly true, that would be VLOS. RLOS is often a bit further, but for Microwaves good approximation..

        If a laser cam see it so can a microwave guide.

    What would I do? Move to Singapore where 99% of the houses have that kind of speed :)

    came back to this after thinking about it

    wonder if could team NBN ~100mbit connections to get 300 mbit

    might have to go for my licence!

      Yes you can get multiple connections to one fiber, and from different/ same isps to one house/ business and then a half decent router will allow the use of both

    Great story. So all we need is a good mate who happens to have the NBN and is willing to let you use it, plus another good mate who'll let you use their property to install a dish. So easy!

    Can I get some advice on which radio model to use? I need to cover 7 KM (Seven Hills to Doonside). Besides a radio at each end do I need any other hardware? Only going from A > B.

    Thanks in advance!

    "because I have was curious and maybe a little desperate" wait, what?

    It should not be necessary to go to the trouble of setting up a non-standard NBN connection in Australia in 2017. Never is truthful information broadcast relating to necessary infrastructure required to keep abreast of other main areas in the Western world, but every excuse thinkable is thrust upon average Australians indicating why updated or less costly infrastructure is not available.
    Lack of money is the main excuse, but there is no excuse for spending $Multi-Billions on F-35 fighter planes.
    Australia's politicians were told originally the cost was $US40 million ($55.7m) per aircraft but after long delays due to faults our gullible pollies were told $US90m per ­aircraft, more delays and the estimated cost will be $US290m per aircraft and rising, and Australia has 72 on order, that is $399 million Aussie dollars, totalling $28 billion 728 million dollars.
    I have been offered NBN with 25 Mbps at $79.00 per month bundle, and current adsl 2 Mbps d/load is 19.5 Mbps.
    Every NBN FTTP connection in Australia with 100 Mbps could be provided instead of wasting $ billions on 'sky toys for the boys' and the extra cost of running the 'toys' is $90,800 per hour.
    Senior, non-wealthy citizens with meagre pensions, thousands of families existing below the poverty line due to no fault of their own, thousands of people homeless, sick and injured on on waiting list for hospital treatment, and our politicians throw their bull*** around the world, bragging how luck are they.
    Meanwhile, my 19.5 Mbps internet server rarely fails, don't worry, be happy.

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