The operators of the nbn, the digital backbone of Australia designed to deliver reliable, fast, resilient and secure broadband across the country, have announced a series of improvements to the fixed wireless elements of the network, proposing enhancements to connectivity speeds with the first 16,000 homes and businesses across nbn Fixed Wireless areas now able to benefit from more speed at the busiest times.
Run by NBN Co, which was established in 2009 by the Commonwealth of Australia as a government business enterprise, the project has the clear stated aim of keeping communities and businesses connected, lifting the country’s digital capability. It uses a mix of technologies across its massive fixed and wireless access footprint.
In 2022, NBN Co received government funding to 5G-enable fixed wireless, deliver faster speeds to regional Australia and allow the company to implement a new measure to indicate the network’s capability to achieve a typical wholesale busy-period fixed download speed of at least 50Mbps.
NBN Co describes the speed enhancements as milestones, and those first to benefit from completed Fixed Wireless upgrades are spread across areas of the South Coast of NSW and the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. These first areas are planned to be followed by more over the coming months and year, and by the end of 2024, more than 750,000 homes and business across Australia are set to be able to benefit from the upgrades.
An additional 3,200 homes and businesses across the South Coast of NSW and Sunshine Coast in Queensland areas that were previously only able to access nbn services via the nbn Sky Muster satellite service are now able to access to the nbn Fixed Wireless network for the first time.
The company also announced some proposed enhancements to its overall upgrade plan, including changes to the two proposed higher-speed plans along with a boost to its existing Fixed Wireless Plus plan. The service is currently the most popular nbn Fixed Wireless plan, with more than 60% of homes and business in the nbn Fixed Wireless footprint selecting it.
Under the proposal, the existing nbn Fixed Wireless Plus wholesale plan would increase from maximum potential information rate of up to 75/10Mbps to up to 100/20 Mbps. This change would apply to all Fixed Wireless Plus services across the nbn Fixed Wireless network footprint.
For the two additional wholesale high-speed tiers nbn will launch, it is proposing improvements that would result in speeds close to double those originally planned. Fixed Wireless Home Fast is planned to increase from 100-130/8-20Mbps to 200-250/8-20Mbps. This plan is predicted to be available to around 90% of the nbn fixed wireless coverage area. Fixed Wireless Superfast would increase from 200-325/8-20Mbps to 400/10-40Mbps available to around 80% of the nbn fixed wireless coverage area. If consultation is successful, nbn plans to make these two enhanced speed tiers available from mid-2024.
The wireless upgrades are being enabled by a $750m investment programme – $480m from the Australian Government and $270m from nbn – in the nbn Fixed Wireless network.
Jason Ashton, nbn chief technology officer of wireless networks, said: “We know that homes and businesses across regional Australia are using more devices and demanding more data and speed than ever before, that’s why we continue to invest and upgrade the nbn network.
“The upgrades aim to make it easier for people to work remotely, access digital services and entertainment, connect with loved ones, and do the online activities and services that are most important to them,” he said. “We believe we can deliver even better nbn services to consumers on the fixed wireless network, which is why we are considering new options that are aimed at improving the speeds that customers can access on the upgraded nbn Fixed Wireless network.”
In addition to the Fixed Wireless upgrades, nbn is delivering full-fibre upgrades via fibre-to-the-premises, and making uncapped data usage available – subject to fair use policy and shaping – on the nbn Sky Muster Plus satellite network to homes and businesses across regional Australia.