NBN Co has announced a significant restructuring and relaunch for its fixed wireless services that will see the product reach for 75 Mbps downloads in the year 2020, as revealed by iTnews in August.
The re-launch is a child of urgent necessity and innovation.
The necessity is an ACMA edict to spectrum users in the 3.4GHz to 3.6GHz bands that requires a new interference management regime that includes specified downlink and uplink network configuration measures. The effect of that edict is that NBN Co will have to withdraw its current wholesale 25-50/5-20 Mbps products by the end of 2019.
The innovation is in what comes next: NBN Co claims it will be better at utilising its accessible spectrum and will have the potential to offer a 75/10 Mbps service in future.
Initially, NBN Co will offer a new wholesale product dubbed “Fixed Wireless Plus” with potential to hit 60/20 Mbps. The bundle will cost the same - $45/month – as NBN Co’s current Fixed-Line 50 bundle.
Brad Whitcomb, NBN Co’s chief customer officer for residential connections, said the new product “is designed to reflect user demand with our insights showing people connected to the Fixed Wireless network are using their service with a ratio of 10:1 downloads compared to uploads.
“This follows extensive consultation with retailers and industry stakeholders to design a wholesale product that works within the limitations of wireless broadband technology.”
Fixed wireless is a contentious service for NBN Co, because it often serves rural and regional areas where broadband speeds are seen as a means to ensure such locales can connect to the digital economy. Slow speeds or bad execution open NBN Co to criticism it is not providing the universal service it is bound to deliver. The speed boost from 50 to 60 Mbps therefore gives the company some extra defensive armor.
Which is why NBN Co’s canned statement about the re-launch features Whitcomb saying “We acknowledge there are some users are currently experiencing slower speeds than anticipated in the busy hour on the Fixed Wireless network and want to reassure people that we are working hard alongside the industry to improve network capacity.”
So now all the company has to do is manage a cutover seamlessly, while hitting its end-of-construction deadline in 2020.
The faster fixed wireless service may also help NBN Co to address “service class zero” addresses, which are located in sites where it just can’t easily deliver its other carriage media for a host of reasons. Many service class zero sites are in odd nooks of cities, so faster wireless services will do a lot to address equity issues in such spots.