NBN Co has been forced to defend its planned use of fixed wireless and satellite infrastructure in Tasmania after the state's new infrastructure minister appeared to infer the technologies weren't long-term solutions to broadband availability.
Infrastructure minister David O'Byrne - who has been in the job less than a fortnight - told ABC North Tasmania yesterday that there were "unfortunately... some areas due to the topography [of Tasmania] but also due to the distance from the main trunk lines where we're going to have some problems in getting the [fibre] rollout close to homes."
"That's where we will have to rely on the terrestrial [wireless] or the satellite service," O'Byrne said.
"That's not ideal and I'm hopeful that after this first rollout that we can get to as many homes and businesses as possible and that the small few homes or businesses that are not contacted that we're able to work on a longer term solution."
O'Byrne's inference prompted NBN Co's chief technology officer Gary McLaren to re-assure communities that were to get wireless or satellite broadband that it would be delivered to them using the "latest technologies". It would not suffer the sorts of issues commonly associated with mobile wireless networks, such as congestion and degradation, he said.
"The wireless is going to be a fixed wireless service and very much a service dedicated to each particular house rather than a service shared across a large number of users that might be in a town at a particular time," McLaren said.
McLaren also responded to a growing volume of calls from various parts of the state for fibre to be rolled out in particular areas, such as those sitting just outside first and second release sites.
One example, Bell Bay Business Park, outside of the stage two site George Town, was cited on several occasions as an area where NBN service could be expedited due to its proximity to the George Town rollout.
McLaren said NBN Co was in the process of detailed planning with contractors and would release more details on its planned rollout when it could.
However, Digital Tasmania spokesman Andrew Connor doused the argument over Bell Bay.
"The issue of the Bell Bay Business Park is a little odd because those businesses already have access to fibre services if they're willing to pay for it, and the very large corporations there do, and they also have ADSL too so it's a relatively even playing field already in Bell Bay," he said.
"Certainly some [businesses] would benefit from having cheaper services but it's consumers who can least afford to pay for that at the moment. So we believe they should get in [with NBN services] first."
NBN Co said last week that it was considering ways to allow homes and businesses designated to receive wireless and satellite connections to the NBN to "pay the difference" to upgrade to a fibre connection.