Satellites, Lasers, Starlink and Elon Musk with Radek Tkaczyk, from NetVault
In Episode 013 of REDD’s Business and Technology Podcast our hosts Jackson Barnes (BDM – REDD), and Brad Ferris (CEO – REDD) interview Radek Tkaczyk, Technical Director at NetVault. Radek shares his insights from working in the communication industry all the way through to his unique relationship with SpaceX and Starlink in Australia.
NetVault is a REDD partner. REDD uses NetVault’s Starlink solutions to ensure clients have robust and seamless internet connections wherever they are in Australia.
Recorded Friday, December 9th, 2022.
If you would like to discuss any of the topics discussed in this episode further with a REDD expert or if you would like to be a guest on the show, please get in touch either via our website, [email protected] or through any of the links below. https://redd.com.au
Thanks for watching!
You can read the full transcript below:
– Hello and welcome to REDD’s Business and Technology Podcast. I’m your host, Jackson Barnes. I’m your co-host, Brad Ferris. And today we’re sitting down with the technical director of NetVault, Radek Tkaczyk, who specializes in everything business communications, and is a partner of REDD. Radek, thanks for coming in today, really looking forward to the chat. It should be quite exciting. Mate, did you want to start with your background before we get into NetVault and all the crazy innovation they’re doing in the communication sector?
– Definitely, thanks guys. Thanks for having me on here. It’s great to sort of be here and see the great setup you’ve guys have got here. But yeah, so NetVault is the company where I’m from. So we focus on three core product pillars for our channel partners, internet services, telephony services, and cloud services. So from our background perspective, we started in the industry about 14 years ago, where we focused purely on virtual machines. And we were, at the time, the company name was called VMvault. And VMvault being Virtual Machine Vault, a secure place to store your virtual machines. So this was really before the cloud was even sort of a term here in the country. And we were probably one of the first, you know, infrastructure as a service cloud vendors here. And we started out with a single data center here in Brisbane.
– Let’s roll back on that. Before you started NetVault or VMvault, actually, what did you do before that? And then, segue into why you started VMvault.
– Yeah, sure. So my background is pure IT. So ever since uni I did a degree in IT. After graduating from there, my first job was at an MSP, building PCs, building servers, back in the good old, you know, 2000 sort of era. That then grew into more of the networking side of things, networking technologies. And, you know, for the first 15 years of my career, I was working, you know, for MSPs, specifically as a network engineer. So that was the first part of my career, is, you know, 10 years working for various IT companies. And now the last 14 years has been with VMvault, now NetVault after our rebrand.
– Okay, so why did you start VMvault?
– So, back in the very early days, I saw that there was a need for, you know, hosted infrastructure at the time. You know, this is before people were looking at the cloud, and, you know, being able to have their workloads and servers in secure data centers where they didn’t have to worry about power, cooling, security, you know, all the costs associated with running IT infrastructure on premises, you know. It could be taken away by at least, you know, either virtualizing their workloads or moving those servers to a data center. And then linking that back through using high-speed fiber, high-speed connectivity back through that. So that was our sort of first forte into technology. And then, you know, after we started doing these virtual machines in the data centers, people were starting to say, “Well, hey, you know, we’ve got our infrastructure workloads with you guys. Fantastic. Can we get, you know, a direct high-speed fiberlink from our office to your data center to be able to access these workloads faster?” Sure, of course we can do that. From there, that sort of led to being able to offer internet access across those high-speed fiberlink. Sure, of course we can do that. Around that time the NBN started coming out in the country and we were focusing on, you know, providing internet services via the NBN for people. And associated with that was the disconnection of voice services. So we got sort of lumped into doing voice services as well. And you know, the whole mantra of just doing virtual machines, you know, we still did that, but it wasn’t, you know, the only thing that we did. We started to get people saying, “Hey, VMvault, what is that, voice mail vault?” No, the idea was that we’re doing virtual machines. And because we were doing so many other things than just virtual machines, hence, why we did a big rebrand from VMvault to NetVault to encompass, you know, all things networks.
– So you diversified your service offering. And then when did you change the name to NetVault?
– We knew we had to rebrand. And around about 2018, 2017, 2018, when we had so many other services than just virtual machines. But 2019 is when we sort of bit the bullet and said, “Right, about time we did this,” and did the full rebrand to NetVault and what it is now.
– Okay. And then today you still do the virtual machine work, but you focus mostly, like most of your turnover is on communications, is that right?
– Well see, there’s three core product pillars that we focus on. Internet services, telephony services, and cloud services. So the virtual machine and cloud infrastructure is very much at our core and at our heart, you know, that’s where we started business, I suppose. But then branching out into the internet side and the telephony side, really gave us three distinct product pillars that we work on. And those product pillars really come back to our 10 data centers that we have around the country where we aggregate our services and provide our own fiber, our own storage, our own sort of infrastructure sets, specifically for other channel partners and MSPs like REDD.
– Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I think REDD had a similar story starting on the digital advisory side, then pivoting as the technology industry evolves to what people need the most, right? So I did want to pick your brain and go into the topic of the evolution of the communication industry. ‘Cause you’ve probably seen it all evolving over the last 14, almost 15 years now. What did the communications industry look like when you started NetVault 14 years ago?
– Well back in the early days, I suppose the majority of services in Australia from a communications perspective were delivered over copper, right? So we did a lot of work with ethernet over copper services, being able to deliver SHDSL, EOC type links. This was back when fiber was just way too expensive to be able to do anything. A lot of the work that we were doing was purely around copper-based services. Then as time has progressed, as time has gone on, we’ve really gone down the fiber optic path. I mean, NBN really sort of transformed a lot of that and really introduced a lot of competition within the raw fiber providers to bring down the cost, to make it more affordable, make it more accessible for smaller businesses to be able to access high speed, reliable internet connectivity.
– Yeah, that’s definitely happened. And it’s probably a good thing like MOUs broke in industry into banking, all right, to drive down interest rates, that kind of thing. I think the communication industry did something similar because even the small businesses now with 20, 30, 40 employees can have a gigabit fiber connection, which is pretty unreal. So that’s, I guess where it was before and how it’s evolved. What’s next as far as you can see, Radek, being in the front and center every day, speaking about communications to businesses, and you’ve got some strategic partners as well back into the industry, what do you think is going to be next for the communications industry?
– Well, fiber seems to be the flavor that everyone wants to get to. It’s the gold standard of getting a fiber internet service into everywhere. And while that’s a great idea, it doesn’t work in practice with a country as big as Australia, where you’ve got such vast distances between even capital cities and even some of the remote regional towns. NBN Co have done a great job in getting fiber to those places, whether or not the coalition government sort of did the right thing or the wrong thing by this whole multi technology mix that they forced NBN to do. Well, let’s not talk politics, but one thing that the NBN has done is definitely forced competition with the likes of your Telstras, your Optus, Vocuses of the world, to make fiber optic internet access more accessible. That then leads to, you know, 4G, 5G, you know, all these other technologies that are coming down the field with low earth orbit satellite technology really being the hot ticket item at the moment.
– So that’s where you think the industry’s going?
– Definitely, definitely.
– I suppose, yeah. I know Brad’s very excited to hear about the next topic we’ll go into, Project Halo. Do you have any questions before we?
– No, no, I know what’s coming. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. I’m very excited. We’ve got some props, we’ve got some slides. So sorry for those who are audio only, you definitely want to look at this on video, ’cause you’re about to have your mind blown.
– Yeah, all right. Radek, I think Brad’s hopped you up a bit there, mate. What’s Project Halo? What is it? And then, let’s go.
– Well, the best way of talking about Project Halo is to start off at one of these slides that I’ve got here, and talking about something bit more exciting than NetVault. Let’s talk about something, that is true to Brad’s and my heart, you know, let’s talk about Starlink. So.
– Yeah. Yeah.
– For those that that don’t know what Starlink is, I’m going to put this back right to the very start. Now I always start this off by showing this gentleman. Now, mate, you must be living under a rock these days to not know who that is, right? So the CEO and founder, one of the co-founders I believe, of Tesla. Now everyone knows about Tesla, and what they’re doing with the electric vehicle market, and how that’s changing the automotive industry.
– [Brad] Ironically, everyone around this table has one of those vehicles.
– Indeed. I’ve got a Tesla Model 3. My wife has got a Tesla Model X. Brad, you’ve got a Model 3,
– Model 2, Model 3s. Jackson’s got a Model 3. My wife’s got one, I’ve got one.
– I think we’re all converted on the whole electric vehicle mindset.
– This is such a fanboy episode.
– It is, yeah.
– But one of the companies that Elon Musk is involved with that’s, you know, mainstream people might not be aware of, is a company called SpaceX. I always like to set the scene when I give this sort of presentation like this, to show people what SpaceX are doing. So I’m going to play this and have a look at this.
– [Launch control] LW01 weather net, lift off conditions, pretty good.
– [Launch control] FTS is ready for launch.
– [Launch control] Ignition, lift off.
– [Launch control] Falcon 9 has cleared the tower.
– [Launch control] 10, 9, 8, 7, seconds to ignition, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
– Okay. So that gives us an idea of what SpaceX are actually doing. They’re launching satellites up into space and landing those rockets back on the ground. So what you’re looking at here is not CGI footage, but that’s actually raw footage of them landing one of their SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets back on the ground. The important part of that is that each one of these rocket boosters is $65 million US. So by being able to land those rockets back on the ground, they’re able to, you know, refuel them, give them a polish, send them back up with the next payload. It’s gotten to the point where SpaceX can do satellite launches, 90% cheaper than anyone else.
– Yeah, so bold, underscore, underline, that is such a game changer. And SpaceX were the first company to ever be able to do that, correct?
– That’s right.
– The first like 20 or 30 attempts they did at landing those rocket boosters was a failure as you’d expect. But by the time they were able to, you know, perfect that, the last 100 or so launches, all flawless, for landing those rockets back on the ground. Fantastic. First company in the world to do it. Everyone said that Elon Musk and SpaceX we’re nuts trying to do it. Can’t be done, can’t be done. And look where we are, you know, a short four or five years later.
– Oh, that’s impressive. And then you’re going to segue that back into communications. I guess there’s a cut there, or are we talking rockets?
– No, because that leads into the next part on this little presentation about Project Halo, and what Project Halo’s all about. Now, the best way about explaining Project Halo is to show you this little video, and have a listen to this.
– Low latency internet, powered by Starlink, free for you and your school. Find out how in this video. For those that aren’t aware, Starlink is the brainchild of Elon Musk and SpaceX, whereby Starlink are aiming to cover the entire world in high speed, low latency internet access. Now, when I’m referring to speeds, I’m talking about speeds of between 200 and 300 megabits per second, and latency or ping of around 20 to 40 milliseconds. This will be available anywhere in the world, which will be a real boom for those regional rural parts of the globe. This is where Project Halo comes in. Project Halo is a $100,000 internet package grant that’s been put together by NetVault, SpaceX, and Cisco to give a regional school in Australia the opportunity to experience internet speeds of the 21st century. As part of this grant, 30 students or teachers will receive a Starlink terminal for use in their home, AKA Dishy McFlatface. These terminals are included as part of the grant, free for 12 months. Also included in the grant is one of these units for the school itself, along with NetVault’s seamless 4G LTE failover technology, which is powered by Cisco routers to deliver reliability and security for the school. Also included are 10 of these Cisco video phones that the school can use throughout the buildings for video conferencing facilities in the school.
– Right, so the school doesn’t pay anything and gets that, or how does that work?
– Correct. So the idea was that the grant was enough for providing the school and 30 students with Starlink technology, Cisco technology, NetVault technology to, you know, really make a big difference for regional and rural parts of Australia. A lot of schools already do have fiber optic internet access, but there are some pockets of Australia where it’s just not feasible to run fiber optic, you know, they can’t get decent NBN services, and the only option they’ve got is traditional geostationary satellite services.
– Yeah, no, I definitely experienced that firsthand. ‘Cause I was born in Rock, oh, not born, I lived in Rockhampton for 25 years, and I was traveling around to like division state school and Banana State School, and those probably, they got 30 kids in the whole school. And I think division had eight at one point. And yeah, fiber out there absolutely no chance.
– Yep, yep. And what we saw is about 230 odd schools applied for the grant, but we could only accept one winner. And we really wanted to showcase, you know, what Starlink could do in Australia. And for the lack of better term is it was designed to, you know, launch Starlink services here in Australia, and showcase what it can do for regional and rural communities. Now, the story for this goes a little bit further and it really comes into its own when I start talking about the winner of Project Halo. Now the winner of Project Halo was Vistara Primary School. Now these guys are a very small school located in Lismore. Now, for those that were watching, what happened in Lismore and Northern New South Wales area earlier this year, this is where this sort of really resonates and I’ll explain why. These are photos of Vistara Primary School, right? Very small school only about 20 or 30 students, four classrooms, five teachers. You know, a very small independent school. But we all know what happened in Lismore and Northern New South Wales earlier this year. So this is what the area looks like today, or what it did back in March when we were doing all of this. Right? So the kicker on this is that we were due to deploy their Project Halo prize the week of the New South Wales floods.
– You could not make this sort of stuff up, right? So because of Project Halo and the work that we had been doing in installing Starlink services, getting them installed in the very early days when Starlink first became available in the country, we were in a bit of a unique position where, you know, we had Starlink dishes in stock ready to go for Project Halo, for Vistara Primary School, as well as other places that we were already doing Starlink installations and Starlink sort of work for. So with what happened in the New South Wales floods, people were desperate for communications because the damage to the local infrastructure there was so bad, that the mobile phone towers weren’t just offline, they were washed away. The fiber networks that connected the mobile phone towers and the communications infrastructure, they were all downstream. So getting those services up and running was a mammoth effort. We were talking about people not being able to get rescued off their roofs of their houses, because they couldn’t dial triple zero on their mobile phone and sitting up there for days on end, trying to get rescued off their roofs. We were talking to the likes of NBN Co and the New South Wales Telco authority, the state emergency services, all screaming out at us saying, “Hey, you know, we can’t get hold of anyone at SpaceX. You know, they’re still two weeks away with getting anything into the country for Starlink dishes. Can we get dishes from you guys?” And the story here gets a little bit more interesting because we couldn’t just, you know, agree and just give them the dishes or, you know, give them the dishes and repurchase what we needed for Project Halo.
– The problem with Starlink services is that Starlink is geo locked to a 22 kilometer radius cell. So if we have a look at some of the Starlink cells, of how Starlink deploy their network. If you’ve got a Starlink service that’s sort of in these lower cells down the bottom part here, you can’t just pick up that dish and move it to another area because of that geo locking, right? Starlink protect their network so they don’t get too many users in a particular cell. And that makes sense, right? Because otherwise, if you get too many users in a cell, too much congestion, too slow, it just turns into another NBN, why sort of bother?
– So we’re talking at that period in time, right? ‘Cause you’ve got that functionality now.
– You do, but I’ll explain how that works. So that was in the early days where that couldn’t work. Now, when we look at the cells for where Project Halo was to be deployed, that was to be deployed in those lower cells on the screen there.
– Because it’s probably just, sorry to cut in, but it’s really, so people know, I mean, Starlink’s only really been available to the general public in Australia, just post this event, right? So this was kind of the first fleet of dishes, give or take, to hit the country, right?
– Correct. Yeah, that’s right. So given that we were due to deploy those dishes in that cell there, you know, where the dishes were really needed, was more so in these upper cells where that devastation was, where people couldn’t dial triple zero. That’s where it really needed to sort of get communications more. So at that point there, I was talking to SpaceX saying, “Oh, hey, can we, you know, we’ve got these dishes here already, can we redeploy them to the upper cells where we really needed that connectivity.” And because Starlink was so popular and those areas were already at capacity for dishes that were due to come in, now we couldn’t deploy them due to capacity constraints. So it’s like, “Okay, well guys,” you know, SpaceX, “can you give us more capacity just 10 more dishes, just give us enough capacity just for 10 more dishes in these areas.” And they said, “No, no, no.” they can’t do that. They can’t do that, which was a bit strange. But then I saw what they were doing with roaming of services in the Ukraine. And it’s like, well, you know, why don’t we enable roaming on these dishes? Can you enable roaming on them? Surely we can do that. And they’re like, “Well, how do you even know about roaming? It’s not available in the country yet.” And that was all at the time of the Ukraine war starting there. So this was all sort of all happening, you know, all within a couple of days of each other. Anyway, that my contacts at SpaceX was saying, “No, no, no, can’t be done, can’t be done. We can’t do anything about that.” And I’m like, “Ah, there must be another way.” So out of desperation, I did a tweet to Elon Musk, I did a tweet to Elon saying, “We’re trying to get Starlink to communities that have been cut off by wild weather, floods, and landslides in Australia. Byron Bay is one. We’d really appreciate more cell capacity for disaster zones. Now, two hours later, Mick Fanning, he’s the world’s number one surfer that lives in Byron Bay, did his own separate tweet, right? Completely separate to what I was trying to do, to Elon saying, “We need help with the flood disaster in New South Wales, Australia. That people have no means of communication and really need your help. Can you help us with Starlink?” Now it was as if, it was from Mick Fanning’s tweet, if I can forget my words correctly. It was from Mick Fanning’s tweet, because he’s got that magic blue circle, the blue tick next to his name.
– It’s much cheaper now.
– Let’s not go there.
– Yeah, anyway, it was because of that, that Mick caught either Elon’s attention or someone higher up at SpaceX than I was dealing with. And they reached back out to us and said, “Okay, we’ll enable roaming for you on 10 dishes, 10 dishes only, but if and only if you donate those dishes to the people and those causes.” And we said, “All right, well, fine.” At least it means we get connectivity to the evacuation centers, to the SES, for those places where, you know, people are sitting there with their house destroyed. At least they can communicate to their family and friends saying, “Hey, the house is gone, but we’re alive.” Right? And that’s something that we thought was, you know, well and truly worthwhile, and something that does good in the community. So we said, “All right, well we’ll donate the dishes, we’ll get them down there and get the ball rolling.” But the next problem that we had is logistics. How on earth do we get 10 dishes down to a place that has been cut off by floods and wild weather? Because TNT, Startrack, FedEx, DHL, all those sort of guys refused to go down there.
– Not touching it.
– Yeah. But then they couldn’t, right? There was nothing they could do about it. So Mick Fanning organized some local logistical support for us by sending a truck up to our office in Brisbane, collecting those 10 dishes and sending them down there. So at this point here, hallelujah. Now we’re cooking with gas. So now we could actually get these dishes deployed, get them set up for people. And we even had these rapid deployment kits that we sort of developed before this that we could utilize to get Starlink to these areas that were really decimated by the areas. Now there was one place that sort of stood out that we were able to help with this sort of technology. And that’s the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service. This is their operation center in Lismore that got flooded out with a meter and a half of water due to the flooding that was happening in Lismore. And there’s two rescue choppers that they fly from this particular facility. And with the operation center completely offline, they had to relocate temporarily to the State Emergency Services offices at Ballina Airport where they could fly those choppers from. Now when they relocated to Ballina Airport, Telstra could only give them a one megabit per second 4G connection, nowhere near enough bandwidth for them to operate properly, being able to, you know, communicate with the rest of their team, organize logistics, staffing, everything like that. We came in there with one of our rapid deployment kits, you know, based on the Starlink services. And next thing you know, we’re able to get them online and the chopper’s back in the sky with, you know, 200 megabits per second of bandwidth. Later, you know, they can be back in the air flying out there rescuing people off cars, off houses, and doing what they need to do. It actually made the leading story on Channel 9 News nationwide. So have a listen to this, ’cause this actually tells the story really well.
– Good evening, Gold Coast surfing legend, Mick Fanning, put the call out for some more heavyweights to join in the flood recovery.
– Tonight, vital services are being restored to flood ravaged communities after billionaire, Elon Musk, answered the call.
– [Reporter] No reception, no communication, and no power for almost two weeks.
– Can you guys help him? He just needs a power pack or something.
– [Reporter] Gold Coast surfing legend, Mick Fanning, leading the charge in the flood recovery effort, urging other big names to step up. Tech billionaire, Elon Musk, answering the call, delivering 10 Starlink kit to flood ravaged areas, providing internet and phone reception to those left cutoff. Still unable to use EFTPOS or make phone calls.
– This is where satellite technologies really come into their own, especially when you start talking about deployable technology where it can be literally put onto a truck, or onto a helicopter and deployed.
– [Reporter] The same technology used in Ukraine amid its own humanitarian crisis. Back here on the Coast, as waters recede, questions are rising about the widespread devastation and if areas can be flood proof.
– Now there’s another good video here that also covers the work that we did there.
– [Reporter] News two days ago, surf star, Mick Fanning, called on Tesla founder, Elon Musk, to use his Starlink satellite network to provide internet coverage in flood ravaged New South Wales. Today a call answered by Brisbane company, NetVault.
– This relatively new bleeding edge technology from Elon Musk, effectively a $10,000 donation that we’re giving to the flood victims of Northern New South Wales.
– All right. So with the roaming that we had enabled in the area, it meant that we could get connectivity to the places that were in need and really, you know, showcase what Starlink can do in a disaster type of scenario like this with, you know, rapid deployment kits, like what’s on screen there. And, you know, this has led to us doing more and more work around Starlink services and installation of Starlink services. We’ve even got a product called seamless 4G failover that we can integrate to Starlink to be able to give businesses that higher level of redundancy and reliability for Starlink to avoid dropouts and anything like that that may be affecting the primary Starlink service.
– So probably little bit of segue and a little bit of action. So we actually have a dish on the desk here. And I love this, because it’s literally internet anywhere in the world, on a backpack.
– Internet in a box. Yeah, so this is sort of a bit different to the rapid deployment kits that we do, but a Starlink travel case where you’ve got your dish ready to go, and all the associated cables and equipment, so that you can put this in your back of your caravan, you know, back of your car, back of your ute, and take internet sort of anywhere with you, a great way of making Starlink sort of portable or mobile, I suppose at the end of the day.
– Yeah, like, it’s not that big. It’s not that heavy. It’s not that expensive really. And you know, I’ve seen, well Radek actually, we haven’t even talked about that, but Radek is the founder of the Starlink Australia, uses Facebook group that has about 20,000 users in it where you can get all the tidbits. But probably the highlight for me is going in there and just seeing where people do speed tests.
– [Radek] Yeah.
– Who can find the most remote place to do a speed test and get the faster speed. So, you know, in the middle of the Nullarbor, you know, you can’t get fuel, can’t get anything, but you can get fast internet now, so.
– Yeah, that’s really cool. And there’s some really good practical uses. I mean, first, thanks for sharing, Radek. That’s really cool story. And you’ve been able to work with Mick Fanning and Elon to deliver services in a time of real need for people, flood victims, that kind of thing. So I appreciate that. But no, it is really good. There’s a proper business use as well for like construction companies out there these days who have got these remote sites, who just battle with, you know, hopeless 4G. There’s heaps of businesses that are out in areas where like traditional NBN and fiber services just don’t cut it. So that’s very exciting. So I guess segue to that, what I guess from this and like the Project Halo, everything that happened, you’ve got some fairly unique offerings like NetVault has some unique offerings. Did you want to touch on that now?
– Yeah, sure. So one of the key offerings that we’ve got is around a product that we call, you know, the seamless failover for Starlink, being able to deliver a Starlink service as a primary, a 4G LTE failover or, you know, geo sat failover, another access technology as a failover component where we can failover from the primary Starlink link to a 4G LTE link, for example, in under one second.
– And because that failover is so fast and we maintain the same public static IP address, it means that, you know, something like a phone call, a Zoom call, you know, anything that the user might be using online is unaffected by, you know, a primary Starlink outage. And there have been outages in the past, even on the 1st of December this year, there was a 20-minute global outage for Starlink and those of our clients who had our seamless failover product for Starlink, we just automatically failed over to their secondary connections and didn’t even know that that had happened. So some of the government departments that we’ve installed Starlink services for, you now, we contacted them and said, “Hey, did you see the Starlink outage earlier?” “What do you mean? No, everything worked.” Of course it worked, because of the seamless failover. And then you point out the graphs and show them, “Hey, this is where Starlink went offline.” We failed over and under one second to the secondary 4G LTE. And it came back, you know, 20 minutes later when the Starlink network sort of recovered from that outage.
– They had an outage earlier in the year that was a result of the solar flare. I haven’t seen the root cause analysis as to what the cause was for the outage only a couple of days ago.
– Yeah, that’s really impressive, ’cause businesses rely so heavily on communication, like access to the internet these days, you know, the amount of productivity lost in a 50-person business with internet, for no internet for one hour, let alone five minutes is pretty catastrophic. And the cost of like Starlink service like per month is so, so low in relative to the productivity you can lose.
– From one event really, so.
– It’s a very cheap insurance policy is the way that I look at it.
– Definitely. So what’s next for NetVault?
– Well from our perspective, you know, we’re adding more and more infrastructure into our data centers. The Starlink being available sort of worldwide means that “Hey we’ve got 10 data centers in Australia that we can do these Starlink sort of services via, and these seamless failover services via, next for us is the New Zealand market. You know, we’re opening a data center in New Zealand, already specked out and ready to go for Auckland. So we’ll be able to do our seamless failover technology in New Zealand as well. Add to that our voice services, data center co-location, cloud services, means that we know we can offer channel partners like REDD, you know, the full suite of telecommunications solutions.
– Wow, that’s impressive. Brad, any other questions you have for Radek?
– We did talk once about, and I’m not sure if it’s relevant for here, but, you know, in Sydney the next DC where you have your presence. And where that has the Starlink point of presence. Did you want to talk a little bit about that? And ’cause that ties in with your seamless failover product, does it not?
– Correct, that’s right. So one of these slides earlier, and I’m flicking all the way back through, is one of our data centers that I skipped over earlier. And one of those data centers is what we call NetVault DC4. Now this particular facility is this one here. Bingo. So at our DC4 facility, this is next DCS1. So we’ve got a bunch of racks, a bunch of fiber infrastructure that runs a lot of our Sydney services. We’ve got actually three data centers in Sydney that we do that via. At this data center here is where we’ve got an interconnect to SpaceX at 10 gigabits per second.
– That’s right.
– So because we can access services at 10 gigabits per second within that facility, this is how we’re able to deliver services like what we did for Project Halo, the New South Wales floods. Our seamless failover product is designed around the fact that we’ve got 10 gig bit connectivity directly to SpaceX.
– I don’t think anyone else has got that in Australia.
– Not sure. I’m sure that other people will sort of catch on soon. But this was sort of, we sort of did this as part of Project Halo. And getting that connectivity to make sure we could do that seamless failover by looking at SpaceX’s network design and said, “All right. Hey, can we test this out together and you know, work it out from there.”
– Yeah, and I guess, this is where we are working with Radek and NetVault, is to provide for clients who cannot afford to be down, for the sake of a couple extra a hundred bucks a month, who cannot afford to be down. You know, we have customers who run warehouses in remote areas and they need to take orders, they need to process invoices. So, potentially thousands of transactions per hour, you know, for the additional cost of another layer of internet redundancy if you like. You know, this is where we’re working with Radek. And probably one thing we didn’t touch on, again, you know, what we’re talking about here is not for the mum and dads at home or the people like me who just want to buy a Starlink connection. You should definitely just go on the website.
– Buy the dish. But if you have any kind of complex environment or you rely on your internet, you need that constant connection. That’s where we look at either the seamless failover, an SD-WAN type configuration, or something like that. So you have that kind of guaranteed uptime and we’re talking, what’s the price of a dish? You know, a thousand bucks. But their half price at the moment, if you really want, you know, you’ve got the installation. And then the service can range depending on what you get, but you know, 150 to $200 per month depending if you have the roaming enabled or not. So it’s really cheap. It kind of separates you from all the Australian telco politics. You’re completely removed from the Telstras, the Optuses and the NBNs of the world.
– And you’re dealing with the satellite technology completely independent. Yes, run by Elon Musk, who’s made some questionable decisions as of late. But prior to that, you know, there’s a reason why he’s where he is, ’cause he can build rockets that can come down to earth.
– Exactly. And this is what we always tell people is that, you know, the two most popular Starlink service types is Starlink residential at $139 per month or Starlink business at $750 per month. Now when you look at some of these Telstra VSAT trailers and some of these mobile mining sites, you know, they’re paying $5,000 per month for connectivity that’s, you know, 10 times slower than what you can get out of Starlink. So, you know, $750 a month for a business service for a mining site compared to $5,000 a month that they were paying for a geo sat service. You know, the technology sells itself.
– And that’s probably a good point actually. Sorry, sorry mate. One thing we didn’t go over is probably just again, I think, I’m sure you’ve got the slide up in your browser, but the way this technology actually works, that allows you to deliver speeds like that at that lower latency and why you needed something like a reusable rocket to make it affordable is, you need to have?
– So, because Starlink is not a geostationary satellite product, right? So it’s a low earth orbit satellite. So what I mean by that is if this is the earth, and this is an NBN satellite, right? It’s in a geostationary orbit, that means that as the earth rotates, the satellite moves with it, right? In order to achieve that, that satellite has to be 36,000 kilometers away from the earth, right? Now the speed of light, you know, satellite signals can only go so fast, right? That’s just pure physics. There’s nothing you can do about it, right? So that’s why geostationary satellite services have such a long latency, 500 to 600 milliseconds. Now Starlink aren’t launching satellites out here, they’re launching satellites here, only 550 kilometers away from the earth.
– All right, I did not know that. There you go.
– So, and in order to maintain that orbit, that satellite must be moving at 26,000 kilometers per hour. So you can’t just have one satellite, you need thousands of them. So right now there’s, what? 2,900 satellites up there rotating above the earth.
– Let’s just take a minute. How cool is that?
– That’s pretty cool.
– Now there’s only 2,900 satellites up there. I say only in inverted commas, because SpaceX have got plans to get to 4,400 satellites to consider phase one of their constellation complete. But then they’ve got approvals from the FCC to go to 44,000 satellites up there, which they’ll do at different orbital shells to really blanket the whole planet in high speed, low latency internet.
– And if you wouldn’t mind, so the gen one, gen two, I’m pretty sure that’s the terminology they use, is that the gen two that has the laser?
– Yeah. Which is this next thing that I’ll show on the screen here. So one of the things that Starlink are doing is that they’re setting up what’s called inter-laser links. Space lasers.
– This is real space lasers, all right.
– Sharks with freaking lasers on their head, right? So the idea is that if you’ve got a satellite sort of out in the middle of the ocean out here, right? Where if I click on that satellite watch what happens, you can see if I click on it properly ’cause it’s already moved on me, it shows you, I’ll choose this one over here. It shows you the area below that satellite that’s been lit up with those cells that I spoke at before. Each satellite beams down about 20 gigabits per second of bandwidth to the area below. And when we actually look at the land mass over Australia, you can see these orange dots. These orange dots are Starlink ground stations, right? So if I click on one of those ground stations, you can see the coverage area that that ground station covers. So if I choose a satellite within range of that, and you can see these dots, means that that satellite’s talking back to that ground station, that particular satellite is moving at 26,000 kilometers an hour away from that ground station. But that area is what’s being lit up right now for users below. Now each satellite, it’s only going to be in field of view for a particular user for about 90 seconds before the next satellite then has to pick up and take the load for that particular area. So that’s why SpaceX want more and more satellites, more satellites, more users, more bandwidth, you know, more, more, more.
– What does the ground station do in that equation?
– So ground stations, I’ll show you a couple of photos of what a ground station looks like. So a Starlink ground station looks like this. A bunch of radar domes, right? Inside those radar domes are parabolic antennas that move and track with the satellites. Now it’s those ground stations that are then connected back through to the fiber optic network, right, back through to Sydney where SpaceX’s data center is. And we conveniently have our data center, you know, a couple of meters away for that 10 gigabit per second interconnect. To be able to deliver, you know, services that way.
– I did not know that was a thing. I just thought I’d just talk to whatever device you were getting. No, that’s unreal.
– So the important thing from a Starlink perspective is that you need to have power, duh, and a 100 degree field view of the sky. And as long as the satellite and the ground station are in range, then that’s what forms that link from the user terminal up to the satellite to the ground station and then fiber, then all the way back through to Sydney for interconnects back to the graces of the internet, back through to us. however else the traffic is supposed to be handled. So for Australia, all of Starlink services come out of that one data center for now. But they will expand on that in the coming months as well.
– So you go from the point of presence, which is the purple triangle. To the ground stations, to the dishes, and it becomes this circle if you like, or the system of a network.
– Now one other thing I will point out is that we do have a map of all the Starlink areas that are available, and it’s only in the last month or two that we have full coverage in Australia. And that’s because those upper parts of, you know, the Northern territory and WA, you’ll see back over here, we don’t have ground stations in that area. And that’s because SpaceX don’t need them, right? They’re using those inter laser links between those satellites that are over here in Darwin for example, that will beam that signal to another satellite, which then relays it down to a ground station. That’s how they’re able to do services over the ocean in the middle of nowhere.
– Are you following that? So literally the satellites have lasers, and they’d laser to each other.
– Yeah, wow.
– Yeah, it’s really cool. But that’s only gen two is it?
– Correct, they’re brand new ones. And that was actually in the very early part of one of those videos that I just showed, which if I just quickly show this and fast forward, you’ll see there is a quick shot of this. Watch this. See that’s a Starlink satellite. And see the lasers?
– Yeah, yeah.
– That are linking them together. That’s how they’re able to sort of do that.
– It’s seriously a marvel, it’s seriously nuts.
– That’s impressive.
– So you’ve got to build a relaunchable rocket first. Just get that one, let that one sink in.
– Yeah, get that done first, right?
– And then, you’ve got to build satellites that interconnect via laser.
– It’s all very cool. I don’t know how it comes back to 150 bucks a month for a user to get a dish and pay for it. I think there’s some, I don’t know how that works commercially, it’s nuts.
– Well ’cause you have like if you think about, even in the States, right? And Australia’s a great example. So why I’m so passionate about it is because I’m 20 kilometers from the CBD of the third biggest city in Australia, and I was forced to use the NBN’s geo stationary satellite, which let’s be frank, sucks, I suppose is better than nothing. But it sucked. You had a 50 gigabyte cap. I mean your kids will go through that in the morning watching, you know, Peppa Pig and Bluey.
– And it’s slow. You’ve got the latency so you can’t really do a video call ’cause it’s 600 milliseconds one way, right?
– Yeah, it means that you end up talking over each other because of the latencies is so high. Yeah, it kind of works. It sucks but it kind of works.
– But literally just think about it, like is 600 one way or round trip?
– The latency.
– Round trip. So you’ve got ping times of 600 milliseconds. So from the time you click a button to the time something happens in your screen on the internet, you’ve literally got to wait over half a second.
– Might not sound like much, but when there’s dozens of requests going back and forward, they all add up.
– So I’m out there 20 Ks from the CBD and that’s in 2022. That’s what I had. So I put my order in, I think it was February the last year, 2021, they opened up to take the orders. Similar to when you buy a Tesla, you just kind of go on there and before they were mainstream, you’d okay put your 50 bucks down and hope for the best that something shows up. But it literally, I ordered it, and once they released, it was within a week, I had it at my door. I took it out of the box. I put it on the mount. I got the app out and within five minutes, I now have high speed internet at my house. And you know, if you’re in the middle of the desert, that’s as simple as it is. You take this thing. You plug it into power and within five minutes, you go from no internet, no communication, you know, dark ages kind of stuff to being city, faster than a lot of city connection speeds. I mean it is game changing, world changing, economy changing.
– We had one of the first Starlink units in the country here, to be able to test and verify, and see how things sort of worked. And it was great that when, you know, they started shipping them all, fantastic, because it was interesting the way that Starlink went about their rollout. So if we have a look at the global rollout of Starlink, Australia now has full coverage. But it used to be that only the southern tip of Australia had coverage. ‘Cause the way that Starlink have gone about their rollout worldwide is, they were starting at the like the north and south poles. ‘Cause that’s easier for them to cover, and then gradually increasing coverage that gradually meets at the equator.
– Is that ’cause of the diameter?
– It’s to do with the rotation of the satellites around the earth.
– Oh, yeah.
– Doing the equator is actually a lot more difficult than the edges. So that’s why they started with that first. Makes sense.
– I might let Elon know that my caravan was coming in January and I’d need coverage around the country, especially in north Queensland when I go on tour with Josh.
– We might start to wrap up there. We could talk all afternoon.
– We could.
– We could. But can I just show you.
– Yeah, sure, sure, go on.
– One thing that I find fascinating is if you look at the cells that are around Australia, Starlink is available Australia wide.
– Oh yeah, I forgot about this bit.
– Except for three little spots, right? There’s this big spot over here in WA, and two spots in New South Wales where Starlink is not available. Why do you think that might be?
– I’m not going to cheat. ♪ Do, do, do, do, do, do ♪
– Is this thing political?
– No, he just gave it to you. It’s where they research aliens, mate.
– Actually, you’re not far off. So over here in WA, this is the CSIRO’s Square Kilometer Array. This is where they do deep space exploration and they don’t want any interference. It’s actually called the West Australian Radio Quiet Zone. So there’s no signals allowed in that area. so it doesn’t interfere with that deep space exploration. Really cool.
– Similar for those two dots.
– Yeah, so down here is the Parkes space telescopes. So another big sort of space telescope where they don’t want any interference on radio signals. And again another space telescope over here. So it’s all to do with deep space exploration, and Starlink are not allowed to use any frequencies in there that they would normally be using for sending signals up and down.
– But there are towns around the New South Wales one, so you would be pretty dirty if you live there.
– I think you would be.
– You’d be on the geo stationary.
– Yeah. Radek, thanks for coming in, mate. It’s really impressive, the innovation you’ve done with Starlink and NetVault.
– Yeah, that’s really cool.
– And what you’ve got going on in the future. I really appreciate you sharing. And people who are listening, you probably want to do this one on YouTube, probably not so much on on podcast, ’cause it was pretty exciting some of the stuff you shared. So really appreciate that. If anyone wants to get in touch with you, how can they reach you?
– Best way to reach out to us is just to have a look at our website, www.netvault.net.au, or send us an email, [email protected].
– Appreciate it, thanks, Radek.
– Thanks, mate, that was great.
– Thanks guys.
REDD is a Technology Success Partner business headquartered in Brisbane, Australia. The Business and Technology podcast focuses on the commercial application of digital technologies in business. Guests will include industry experts, vendors, customers, business owners and anyone with unique insight to share. We discuss and explore current events, issues and stories relevant to business leaders, entrepreneurs, technologists and everyone in between. The show will have a mix of hosts from the REDD leadership anchored by co-founding Director and CEO Brad Ferris.
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