Kokoda Communications Hubs
Icom Radios provide reliable communications to the Kokoda Track
The Kokoda Track is located in one of the most remote and challenging terrains around.
With more than 5000 visitors a year to this historic area, communications are essential for both the Kokoda Track Authority and the trekking companies who use this route. Not to mention the many villages who use the track daily to commute.
With limited mobile coverage, having reliable communications is key to safety on the track for all. VHF radios have been used along the track for a number of years to provide low-cost and reliable communications, but due to several factors the existing system had deteriorated and required upgrades.
Funding was sourced and a plan put together to install new radios into 14 villages initially, identified as key locations along the track.
The Kokoda Track is a remote pathway 96 km long between Owers Corner in Central Province and Kokoda in Oro Province. There is no access to the villages other than by walking or helicopter, and even helicopter access is restricted by low weather patterns that occur.
Communication is via VHF radios that are connected to an existing repeater on Mt Fala – a site only accessible by helicopter when the weather permits.
Unfortunately, PNG also has high rates of vandalism and theft to property like this, mainly because of the low socio-economic factor in the region. There is no power in these villages either, meaning each solution must be self-supporting.
For a successful outcome, each village required an updated VHF radio with its own solar and battery supply that could allow 24-hour battery back-up time.
On top of this the system needed to be protected, to ensure vandalism and theft attempts are minimised.
In addition, because of the remoteness, each site needed reasonable access to enable easy installation and for the equipment to be as low-maintenance as possible.
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A communications hub was designed by TE (PNG) to meet these requirements.
A steel frame, with a secure box for the radio to be housed, coupled with solar panels on top and a locked box for battery and regulator storage, ensure the system is as theft-proof and vandal-proof as possible.
Each system was able to be built in Port Moresby, and tested, then lifted via helicopter to the village where it was installed.
On top of this, the hub provided 10x USB ports for charging things like mobile phones and cameras, as well as signage showing trekkers where on the track they were, plus space for information about the village and its significance to the track.
Two teams of technicians walked the track, installing each hub as they went. This included digging the hole and concreting into position.
Following installation, they provided training to the villagers on the correct use of the radio. This meant the hub became an important tool to the village, because if they looked after it and ensured it remained intact, it enabled them to connect to other villagers along the track – something they hadn’t had previously.
The Kokoda Track now has a reliable, upgraded system designed to last many more years.
The Kokoda Track Authority now provides a higher level of safety, as do the trekking companies using the track. Villagers benefit from increased contact with each other and, as such, are using it regularly to update their families and friends as to their whereabouts.
The Kokoda Track Authority is in discussions with TE (PNG) to upgrade the Mt Fala communications systems to provide more capacity and redundancy in this system, to ensure communications are kept operating for many years to come