NBN Co unveils new plans for its Fixed Wireless network in Australia

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NBN Co has unveiled plans to launch a new wholesale product intended to better reflect the capabilities of the nbn Fixed Wireless network and to better meet user demand.

Scheduled to launch in mid-2019, the new wholesale Fixed Wireless Plus product will be made possible through more efficient management of the finite capacity available on the network.

Instead of providing a fixed wholesale speed tier, it aims to deliver the maximum potential wholesale speed the network is capable of delivering at the time of use.

The product will initially support maximum potential network download speeds of up to 60Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps.

Changes to NBN Co’s spectrum licence² will require the company to withdraw the existing Fixed Wireless legacy and bundled 25-50/5-20 Mbps speed tier product by the end of 2019.

Following the regulatory changes in 2020, the company will be able to reallocate capacity to enable better utilisation of existing spectrum. This will see the expected maximum potential download speed on the Fixed Wireless Plus product increase to up to 75Mbps, with upload speeds up to 10Mbps. The maximum potential network speed does not equate to user experience, which may vary¹.

Wholesale pricing for the new Fixed Wireless Plus product will match NBN Co’s Fixed-Line 50 bundle at $45. The company’s legacy wholesale Fixed Wireless pricing on existing 12-25/1-5 products will continue to be offered to retailers.

The company has also delivered on its commitment to share regular updates about the Fixed Wireless network performance in its monthly public progress report³. The report shows 96.2 per cent of Fixed Wireless cells performed above NBN Co’s Fixed Wireless wholesale minimum average download busy hour threshold of 6Mbps⁴ in November, up from 94.5 per cent in May this year.

In August this year, NBN Co announced an additional $800 million investment in Fixed Wireless capacity upgrades⁵, which will continue to be conducted over the course of the 2019 to uplift the performance of cells that are currently performing below NBN Co’s Fixed Wireless design threshold.

NBN Co’s Chief Customer Officer – Residential, Brad Whitcomb, said, “We are committed to delivering access to fast broadband for regional and rural Australians and are investing in our Fixed Wireless network.

“The new wholesale Fixed Wireless Plus product is designed to reflect user demand with our insights showing people connected to the Fixed Wireless network are using their service with a ratio of 10:1 downloads compared to uploads.

“This follows extensive consultation with retailers and industry stakeholders to design a wholesale product that works within the limitations of wireless broadband technology. People should speak with their retailer about the data and speeds required for their usage and the speeds which can be achieved at their home.

“We acknowledge there are some users are currently experiencing slower speeds than anticipated in the busy hour on the Fixed Wireless network and want to reassure people that we are working hard alongside the industry to improve network capacity.

“With more than 3,000 Fixed Wireless cells upgraded this year, NBN Co’s monthly progress report shows our network capacity program has been successful in reducing the number of cells which fall beneath our busy hour threshold, however, we do expect some fluctuation over the next few months as we scale up our efforts.”

NBN Co’s Sky Muster and Fixed Wireless networks, as well as the early prioritisation of the rollout in regional areas, are helping to drive economic prosperity in the bush. According to research released by NBN Co earlier this year⁶, the nbn™ access network helped create $450m in additional gross domestic product (GDP) in regional Australia in 2017. That figure is forecast to drive an additional $5.3bn in GDP in regional areas by FY21.

The research also forecasts that Australia’s position in terms of internet equality will leap into the top 10 of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations – up from the bottom 10 – by the time the nbn™ access network rollout is complete.

The rollout of the Fixed Wireless network is expected to be a $3.5billion investment to deliver access to fast broadband to more than 600,000 Australian homes.