Wollongong man builds private radio network to get NBN access

DIY NBN: Daniel Saffioti couldn't get the NBN connected from across the road so he built a radio network with friends to beam in the NBN. Picture: ADAM McLEAN
DIY NBN: Daniel Saffioti couldn't get the NBN connected from across the road so he built a radio network with friends to beam in the NBN. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

The last straw for Daniel Saffioti​ came in mid-2014 when the National Broadband Network installed a fibre pillar right in front of his house – but refused to connect him.

The Commonwealth public servant had endured years of "awful" ADSL in Haywards Bay and now NBN was right on his doorstep but still totally inaccessible.

"It runs right past my house, and it goes to the new people in the estate, and it does not go to me at all," he told Fairfax.

Mr Saffioti's solution to slow internet may be the most creative yet.

Bugger it, he thought. I'll just beam the NBN 12 kilometres to my house - right over that range of hills.

Mr Saffioti is the chief information officer for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, which means he gets to play with some exciting technology.

In the past, he'd messed about with installing wireless bridges. These devices, which come with their own mini radio dishes, allow internet signals to be beamed for up to 50 kilometres. For hardware built for business, they are "incredibly effective at an amazingly ridiculous price point," Mr Saffioti writes on LinkedIn, where he detailed his DIY-NBN project.

They worked so well, Mr Saffioti decided to buy a few for his own use.

With those in hand, the other thing he needed was someone willing to share their NBN connection. Luckily, he had a friend based in nearby Kiama, one of the first towns in Australia to be connected to fibre.

That friend was good enough to agree to let Mr Saffioti share his connection, if he could work out how to.

While he and his friend were within the 50-kilometre range of the wireless bridge, they had a big problem: a big hill.

Or more specifically a patch of hilly country directly between their two properties.

The wireless bridges need line of sight for fast speeds. If Mr Saffioti couldn't find a way to get line-of-sight, the connection wouldn't be much quicker than his slow ADSL, making all his effort worthless.

Luckily, Mr Saffioti's friend had a cousin, and he just happened to live right in between the pair, elevated on a hill in Oak Flats. And he couldn't get NBN either.

That meant he was only too happy to have a wireless bridge set up on his house to bounce the signal – while also getting fast speeds himself.

Fully installed, the project beams NBN about 12 kilometres from Kiama to Oak Flats, and then about another three to Mr Saffioti's place in Haywards Bay.

The link has been running well ever since, with regular download speeds of about 70mbps down and 35 up. Total cost of the project: about $1000.

Originally, the high-speed broadband network only connected new homes in Mr Saffioti's area. However, late last year the NBN got in contact with him to let him know he was now, finally, eligible to connect to the fibre network.

He's considering it, he says with a laugh.