Busy hour speeds for NBN fixed wireless 'likely to mislead'

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Busy hour speeds for NBN fixed wireless 'likely to mislead'

Industry weighs in.

Speeds on NBN Co’s fixed wireless network are “extremely variable” and therefore not conducive to being measured and reported on in the same manner as fixed-line services, an internet industry body says.

The comments [pdf], made by Communications Alliance, are in response to a proposal by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to make retail service providers disclose more data about fixed wireless when making a sale.

The internet industry has widely adopted marketing guidance by the ACCC to disclose typical busy hour speeds for NBN services.

The guidance immediately led to fierce competition among retailers to have the best performance in peak periods of usage.

However, it only applied to fixed-line services. Only a handful of RSPs have gone beyond that and published some sort of data for fixed wireless services as well.

In November last year, the ACCC outlined a plan for RSPs to supply more detailed information about connection speeds and known congestion issues in a fixed wireless cell as part of the sales process.

The Communications Alliance, which represents the telecommunications industry, is the first to make public its position on the proposal.

“Industry considers that the previously agreed upon principles in the guidance can be applied to services delivered over fixed wireless technology,” the alliance said.

“However, expanding the fixed line speed guidance to fixed wireless services is not appropriate. It will cause confusion for consumers, and possibly put RSPs in [an] impossible position.”

Communications Alliance argues that fixed wireless performs so differently to fixed line services that the two can’t be measured in the same way.

“Fixed wireless services are fundamentally different than those provided over a fixed line network, and the consumer experience is extremely variable,” it said.

“Applying the concept of ‘typical busy period speeds’ to fixed wireless will not provide useful information.

“The cell a consumer is connected to, and the location of their residence in relation to that tower, will both significantly impact performance.

“The number and variability of factors impacting on consumer speeds are such that any ‘typical busy period speeds’ are more likely to mislead consumers than provide them with any useful information.”

Communications Alliance is also worried RSPs will end up in a bind because of published numbers. It indicated the industry did not want to “over-promise” what fixed wireless could deliver to all users, based on the experience of a sample.

On the flipside, NBN Co has been under pressure over the past year to fix congestion issues on its fixed wireless network, issues that users say has seen them achieve a fraction of anticipated speeds.

One thing in the alliance’s favour is that the ACCC consultation pre-dates a major change made by NBN Co to the way it will sell fixed wireless services in the future.

Making good on a proposal exclusively revealed by iTnews back in August, NBN Co will ultimately stop selling speed-tiered fixed wireless services and instead offer a “best effort” service.

That should take some of the heat off the company and RSPs when end users don’t see anywhere near the topline speeds they were sold.

“The pricing and wholesale plan changes recently announced by NBN Co make the concerns regarding the marketing of plan speeds less relevant,” Communications Alliance added.

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