NBN Co will expand its fixed wireless footprint by up to 72,800 premises as the balance of its multi-technology mix continues to shift.
Minister for regional communications Fiona Nash said in a statement that fixed wireless towers will now "serve up to six percent of Australians”.
NBN Co’s corporate plan no longer breaks out the percentage of premises to be served by fixed wireless, instead noting that both fixed wireless and satellite will reach a combined eight percent of premises.
However, during recent technology trials, NBN Co’s CEO Bill Morrow said that fixed wireless was destined to service 600,000 premises. Based on the old 11.9 million total premises number, that is equal to 5.04 percent of the footprint.
One complication is last week’s confirmation that the total premises in the NBN footprint is now 11.2 million, not 11.9 million. On that re-calculation, about 5.35 percent of premises had been in the fixed wireless footprint to date.
The minister’s declaration that “up to six percent” of premises will now be served by fixed wireless isn’t conclusive but does suggest an expansion of “up to” 72,800 or 114,240 premises – depending on whether the revised or original NBN total premises count is used.
This is unlikely to be confirmed until NBN Co hands down its revised corporate plan in about six weeks' time.
iTnews has previously revealed the effects of shifts in NBN Co’s multi-technology mix, tracking the fortunes of 62 towns that were originally slated for fibre-to-the-node connections, instead being transferred into the fixed wireless footprint.
Labor senator Anne Urquhart and former Greens senator Scott Ludlam both questioned the shifts – citing iTnews’ research - at a recent senate estimates hearing.
But they were largely rebuffed in their attempts to get more information on what caused towns to be put onto another technology.
“NBN Co uses an iterative network planning process to determine which technology is deployed to premises in a rollout region and this plan is continually optimised as the rollout progresses,” the network builder said in a response filed after the hearing.
“This means there will, from time to time, be areas that move from one technology to another.”
Due to the way NBN Co publishes rollout information, those shifts are now largely hidden from view.
To that end, it was unclear at the time of writing where the extra premises now added to the fixed wireless footprint were coming from.