The CAS project

The Concept
'Digital Hubs’ is a MoE’s project where the school’s fiber internet connection can be shared with the local community.
In Collingwood several factors have increased the interest in a better Internet feed for the community.

  • The technology used is the good solution for heavy Internet users who reside in rural communities.
  • .Recent buildings near the school.
  • The failure of the Birds Clearing cell tower.
  • Poor speeds  by current Tier 1 and 2 services.

Note: There is a expectation that the recent TDC based broadband application may provide a good tier 1 Internet service.
The problem is that this is a competitive grant and may not meet all expectations.

The Design
A set of guidelines called "Digital Hubs" allows for the sharing of the school Internet connection. This connection is fast (50 megs) can will be increased (100-500meg) if there is demand.
Using existing software the schools Internet can be distributed by a tight, fast (600 megabit/sec) point to point wireless 'beam' to any light of sight destination within 50+ km. These 'beams' may be relayed over a longer distance or around high points.

Ownership structure.
InfoPOP (Geoff) has used this technology for many years but there is now an opportunity for other community users to participate.
Users considering this concept should be aware that...

  • The technology used is reasonably mature.
  • Can be self managed or the users may hire in professionals.
  • There is no funding pool . The funding and associated risks must be managed by the users.
  • InfoPOP (Geoff) has ...
    • Altered the old infrastructure so that others may gain access to this service..
    • He has no desire to own or manage the process ... but is very happy to assist and support.
    • He is very happy to train anyone in the process and has access to full time professionals working in this area (if required).
  • The Ministry of Education paper on this can assist with the necessary regulatatory requirements.
  • The 'costing' spreadsheet will assist with calculating indicative costs involved although readers may need assistance in  establishing definite costs.
  • Assistance ...
    • Alison Menary is able to assist from the school perspective.
    • Vinnie can help from the Board of Trustees side.


Before any development we need to be clear of what is allowed and what is not.

  • The N4L (The local schools Internet supplier) has no problem with the school providing Internet to the local rural community PROVIDING there is no charge for the service.
    • If you want to charge for the service then you have to organize a separate Internet stream (called a VLan) from your own provider (e.g. – SNAP) over the schools fiber connection.
  • Caveats
    1. The school Internet quality is good but is heavily filtered and protected … which has its good and bad points.
      • You can get unfiltered Internet by using Crystal's management features (Geoff can explain further)
    2. If you are going to resell Internet then you need to set up the required Trust.
      Instructions can be found on the Ministry of Education (MoE) website or on the Crystal Digital Hub site.

Possible models.

  1. P2P or P2MP model (Preferred model):
    • Point to Point  or Point to Multi Point
    • Link (example)
    • Currently InfoPOP/Crystal uses a P2P (Point to Point) connection from the schools transmission point to the user’s premise.
    • Technical explanation: The user then connects to this P2P link with their router (DNS, DHCP, NAT and firewall) and distributes traffic via cable and/or wireless over their local network. The local router can have a redundant connection to a low use Telecom connection.
    • Pro:
      1. Can reach up to 50+ km of light of sight. Each link can be configured and managed by the owner.
      2. Can relay P2P to Bainham, Rockville, Pakawau and Collingwood with each group managing their own links.
    • Con: Each P2P link needs a separate transmission (dish) device.
      This will mean …
      • a higher cost
      • a small shared router (Mikrotik) to distribute and manage WLan (Wireless Lan(s)) (Geoff supply and look after this if needed)

  2. Mesh model:
    • If a sector coverage is wanted (like cell phone tower coverage) a mesh network will be needed with an AP (Access Point) about 100m (clear line of site) apart.
    • Pro:
      • Technically easier to set up
      • Management router can provide very local wireless access.
    • Con:
      • Higher shared management cost.
      • Limited coverage (approx. 250 000 sqr m)

The Mast
The project needs a mast from which to transmit.
Crystal already has permission from the school for a pipe mast and it is proposed to replace this with a more solid structure so it can hold a greater number of devices.
The alternative is a commercial mast which is very expensive and require lots of engineering work.

    • Permission:
      • Geoff has been to the TDC and confirmed that we do not need a resource consent for a mast less than 6 m (see appendix)
      • School has confirmed their agreement.
      • InfoPOP/Crystal has agreed to allow the replacement of its existing pole with a shared one.
        • Crystal will mount its current dish near the top of the new mast
      • The mast requires no resource consent and stands away from the boundary by >5m.

    • Coverage
      Initially the pole is designed to cover the Crystal workshop (Poplar Lane), Mt Burnett and SW corner of McDonalds sub division.
      Further expansion will require further calculations and possibly using a relay station on a local hilltop.

    • Engineering:
      A standard 200mm wooden power pole donated by Delta (NTL contractors).
      • The old pole will be removed by InfoPOP
    • Hardware:
      • Possible pole mounted units
        1. Crystal 600mm dish
        2. Multipoint local
        3. Distant P2P  hardware
      • Cabling…
        • A separate screened cable back to junction box for each device would be needed.
          • Test (Rural link), InfoPOP, multipoint, Township.
          • 7x: Redundant: Spare 2x, Mackay's Pass, Zatori, Pakawau, Vinnie, Health Post redundant link.
        • Shielded external data cable with PoE (Power over Ethernet) would be used.
      • A new 80mm underground conduit will be needed for the extra cabling.
        This conduit would need to have rodent proof stops at each end and ‘gravity’ drain and moisture.
      • The UPS (Backup power), management switch (Mikrotik) and PoE installation would be in a purpose built box under the NW corner of the Room 9 (Art).

    • Software:
      The Digital Hub project assumes users will use the N4L filtered product.
      • This will ensure only approved devices will use this service. The Crystal BYOD functionality will be used to achieve this..
        In practice this means that approved devices must be ...
        • 'Approved' by a project or school representative
        • Have a project's digital certificate on the device (aka- it is expected that the project will use a Crystal SSL certificate to save $$)
      • Content filtering: Basic N4L content is strict and blocks such services as NetFlicks. If the project wants more flexible filtering then  ...
        • The schools must adopt device and user level filtering practices .
        • Devices must have a N4L digital certificate.
          The requirement of having dual certificates on each device may appear to be a significant barrier but it anticipated that this will quickly become just a normal management process.
          The upside is that this service will be free and well protected from Internet dangers.
        • See TOSIroam modeling for more information
    • Notes
      • Crystal and Digital Hub circuitry would be kept separate as Crystal operates under a separate agreement with the N4L.
      • Neither Crystal nor the Digital Hub project would have any effect over the schools Internet or network.
        • If bandwidth demand becomes an issue then the N4L is contractually obliged to increase bandwidth to the school.
        • Crystal and the Digital hub project will be continually monitored by Crystal. This has a positive spin off for the school as any issues will be promptly dealt with.

    • Sponsorship
      • The pole has been donated by Delta (NTL support)
      • The pole hole dug by Brendon  Strange.
      • Digital cabling and design done by InfoPOP ltd.

Any comments or interest to