Broadband infrastructure provider NBN Co has welcomed a AUD$480 million investment announced by the Australian Government in the nbn Fixed Wireless network. NBN Co will commit an additional $270 million to the program designed to deliver faster wholesale speeds for regional Australia, benefiting thousands of homes and businesses.
NBN Co will use the funding to 5G-enable its network of more than 2200 Fixed Wireless infrastructure sites and more than 22,000 cells in semi-rural areas and across regional and remote Australia. nbn will use the very latest 5G technology to vastly extend the range, speed and capacity of its existing Fixed Wireless network, while reducing latency to deliver the best possible customer experience.
Importantly, as a result of recent advances in 5G technology, and in particular nbn’s extensive testing and future implementation of 5G millimetre wave technology, the enhancements will be primarily delivered using the existing network of nbn Fixed Wireless towers.
The investment forms part of the government and nbn’s response to the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review which recommended enhancements to nbn Fixed Wireless and Satellite services after it found there has been a step-change in demand for data and broadband in rural and regional areas.
The investment aims to deliver four major benefits to homes and business across regional and remote Australia:
- Extended Fixed Wireless: Enhanced coverage and extended maximum range for some nbn fixed wireless towers resulting in expansion of the nbn® Fixed Wireless footprint coverage by up to 50 per cent enabling approximately 120,000 former satellite-only eligible premises to access nbn Fixed Wireless services.
- Faster Fixed Wireless wholesale speeds: Following consultation and launch, nbn proposes that homes and businesses in the expanded nbn Fixed Wireless footprint will be able to order retail services via their service provider over nbn’s wholesale tiers proposed to offer potential maximum wholesale download speeds of up to 100Mbps. nbn is aiming that up to an anticipated 85 per cent of the expanded footprint will also be able to order services with potential maximum wholesale download speeds of up to 250 Mbps, which is up to three times faster than the highest wholesale speeds available on nbn Fixed Wireless today.
- Improve Fixed Wireless typical wholesale busy hour speeds4: nbn Fixed Wireless network improvements are expected to allow nbn to implement a new measure to indicate the network’s capability to achieve ‘typical wholesale busy period speeds’ of at least 50Mbps (download).
- Enhanced data limits and network performance on nbn Sky Muster: For the homes and businesses that remain on nbn Satellite, nbn is proposing to unmeter nbn Sky Muster Plus data for the majority of the day with the off-peak period for unmetered data increasing to 16 hours (12am – 4pm) per day, from the current six-hour window (1am – 7am). This is anticipated to be applied from mid-2022. In addition, for regular Sky Muster, nbn is aiming to increase average monthly data allowances to 55 Gigabytes (GB), increasing to 90GB once the nbn Fixed Wireless upgrade is complete in around two and a half years’ time.
Gavin Williams, nbn Chief Development Officer for Regional and Remote, said:
“Access to fast and reliable broadband plays a vital role in the lives of people across Australia and is critical for the nation’s economy – and 5G will be core to enhancing and accelerating our nbn Fixed Wireless capability.
“This investment will also support the regional Australian economy with an additional $6.1 billion in regional Gross Domestic Product over 2022 to 2026 financial years.
“Broadband demand in regional and remote Australia has been growing rapidly and as Australia’s digital backbone, this ongoing and growing demand requires continued investment in the nbn network.
“For households across regional Australia faster speeds2 will make it easier to work remotely, access digital services as well as connect with loved ones and access entertainment. For businesses, faster speeds1 will enhance and expand participation in the global digital economy and benefit from innovative technology such as the Internet of Things and smart farming.
“We will commence detailed planning shortly. After that is completed, we expect the roll out will take around two and a half years (subject to further assessment through the detailed planning process).”
The investment announcement follows the AUD$4.5 billion dollar network investment announced by nbn in September 2020, which is driving fibre deeper into communities and delivering wholesale speeds of 500Mbps to close to 1 Gbps5 on demand to 2 million homes and businesses – or around 75 per cent of the nbn Fixed Line footprint by the end of 2023. Around half of the premises announced to date under that program are located in regional Australia.