Uniting one of Queensland’s most iconic regional hubs with Telstra

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About Longreach Regional Council

Nestled in the heart of Central Queensland, the iconic Longreach Region is home to a stunning outback landscape and vibrant local community. Roughly the size of Denmark, Longreach encompasses over 40,000 square kilometres of land, despite hosting a population of just 3,800 people.

Overseeing this beautifully vast expanse is Longreach Regional Council, which serves the local communities of Ilfracombe, Isisford, Yaraka and the regional hub of Longreach. Despite access to limited resources, Longreach Regional Council continuously pushes the boundaries of innovation, ensuring its communities are equipped with the technology and connectivity they need to thrive.

Maintaining this vision carries significant challenges given the sheer size of the Longreach region. The council’s townships are hundreds of kilometres apart and often don’t have access to fixed internet infrastructure.

“Our sites are quite spread out and have a diverse set of requirements,” says Longreach Regional Council Senior IT Officer Michael Ballard. “Our furthest site is about a three-hour drive away from our hub in Longreach and due to the distance and regional nature of our townships, there aren’t always the same opportunities for connectivity.”

Building a plan for change

Longreach’s legacy MPLS network was reaching its limits, with challenges around performance, bandwidth and latency that inhibited its digital ambitions.

The Longreach township has a diverse range of requirements, with multiple sites that include an early education centre and a water treatment plant. Its main office also feeds other community services – such as its visitor information centre and law offices – while doubling as a disaster management coordination centre, despite only having a single 50mbps fibre link.

It was also facing challenges maintaining visibility across all sites, with little to no insights over network and application performance.

“We couldn’t see live connections and didn’t have any kind of telemetry on network health and performance,” Michael says. “If our staff reported issues, we often had to drive out to these locations to identify and resolve them. We were essentially flying blind.”

This lack of visibility raised considerable security concerns, with an ageing legacy firewall that wasn’t well suited to cloud application environments and modern user access standards. The network also lacked redundancy. If the single fibre link were to go down, all connectivity in the central hub would be lost.

To support a more robust and innovative digital future, Longreach needed to strengthen its network with more advanced infrastructure, greater visibility and enhanced security capabilities.

A state-of-the-art SD-WAN solution, powered by Telstra, VMware, and Palo Alto

As a trusted partner, Longreach Region Council engaged Telstra to identify how it could address its key issues with a network transformation that supports robust, ongoing growth. After a period of consultation, Telstra proposed the innovative Telstra Adapt S1 solution, built on SASE architecture leveraging Telstra’s powerful internet connectivity infrastructure, an assured SD-WAN based on VMware VeloCloud and Palo Alto Prisma.

Telstra solutions partner Pinnacle IT was chosen to design, deploy, and manage the solution, acting as trusted experts to guide Longreach through every step of the transformation.

“After receiving the proposal, the first thing we did was ring Pinnacle IT to ask them, ‘what’s the catch’,” Michael adds. “Something this good doesn’t just land on your plate. It was multiple times faster, had redundancy built into it and was incredibly cost effective. It turns out, there wasn’t a catch. It was exactly what it said it was.”

The new solution featured upgraded dual fibre links for the main site in Longreach, from a single 50mbps link to dual fibre lines, including a 400mbps fibre link from Telstra and a 100mbps NBN link. As one of the first councils in Queensland to be equipped with dual fibre connectivity, the new infrastructure provides incredible improvements to speed and bandwidth and provides additional redundancy if one link were to go down.

The network is also backed by NBN satellite infrastructure, which provides robust redundancy and ensures the network is still available in the event of downtime. VMware’s proprietary VeloCloud capabilities ensure near instant failover to satellites and backup carriage services, as well as intelligent routing that enable Longreach to make the most out of their connectivity and bandwidth.

Regional sites also received considerable upgrades, with five locations across Ilfracombe and Isisford also upgraded to 100mbps Telstra 4G-powered links. Longreach’s water treatment plant was upgraded to a 100mbps Telstra NBN fibre line and its Early Learning Centre link was upgraded from four to 50mbps.

The Adapt S1 solution also included key security features underpinned by Palo Alto’s Prisma Access Cloud Security platform, including deployment of consistent security policies across all devices and sites, as well as Zero Trust cyber strategies ensuring only authorised employees can access key data and applications.

A new era of innovation

Pinnacle IT worked directly with Longreach to execute a seamless cutover and implementation without interrupting the day-to-day activities of the council.

“The longest cutover we had was probably about 15 minutes,” Michael explains. “That was the initial one where we were discovering the best way of doing it, so from that perspective the cutover time frames were just unreal. All cutovers were complete in eight days and the whole project essentially took about six weeks. We were really happy with that timeline.”

Significant increases to bandwidth and internet speed support the council’s digital transformation ambitions, including more regular use of innovative cloud platforms across all sites.

“One of the biggest outcomes is increased ability for innovation,” Michael says. “We no longer have any constraints. We can experiment with bandwidth-heavy programs, expand our network capabilities and test emerging technologies, which we weren’t able to do before.”

This additional capacity for digital experiences has already driven some major outcomes at the council’s early education centre, where they’ve rolled out additional access points and more laptop and tablet devices to support digital learning opportunities.

“The early education centre has an initiative where they use a digital portal to build a book documenting a child’s time at the facility, including photos, video and audio of happy or memorable moments,” Michael adds. “That’s rapidly increased bandwidth requirements as more kids join the centre, which the SD-WAN solution can now accommodate.”

Increased network visibility across the entire regional network is also a gamechanger for Longreach. VMware VeloCloud gives Michael’s team whole-of-network performance insights, including how much traffic they’re seeing, with the ability to remotely identify any problems without sending staff on a multiple-hour drive.

The SD-WAN overlay combined with multiple carriage options and satellite backup infrastructure also provides state-of-the-art redundancy that ensures critical council services remain up and running. That’s particularly important in the event of a disaster, or when public internet connectivity drops, as the council’s main hub in Longreach provides critical information and services to residents.

A solid platform for a brighter future

With improved speeds, an intelligent network overlay and complete visibility backed by solid redundancy and strong security capabilities, Longreach has achieved some incredible results with its network transformation.

Although the council is far from done. It’s always looking for more opportunities to improve its operations and the services it offers to residents. The next phase of its transformation will involve providing 5G connectivity to its remote sites, which will offer even greater innovation across its entire network.

“Our main site is already 5G capable and as soon as 5G is turned on, we’ll be able to cut over to 5G for the other locations,” Michael explains. “That’s going to provide even more opportunities for the council, but that’s just one of many things we’re investigating to take our connectivity to the next level.”

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