NBN Co to run 5G tests in Melbourne

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NBN Co to run 5G tests in Melbourne

Future fixed wireless enhancement?

NBN Co is set to conduct its own 5G tests with networking vendor Ericsson in part of its prime 3.5GHz spectrum holdings.

Chief technology officer Ray Owen said the company would “use these tests to find out more about the technology and how it can help us deliver better services to our fixed wireless end users across Australia”.

“We know that 5G will enable much faster speeds than 4G but at nbn we also know better than anyone about how much data end users are consuming and some of the challenges on putting that data capacity onto fixed wireless network,” Owen said.

“Today, NBN Co is operating in excess of 2500 fixed wireless (macro sites) across Australia providing LTE fixed wireless access to 225,000 end users across the country.

“It is in this vein we have a close interest in 5G for our fixed wireless footprint in understanding the technology and economics of a 5G upgrade path.”

NBN Co will run its tests in Melbourne this week using a 100MHz slice of bandwidth in the 3.5GHz band.

The company’s outgoing CEO Bill Morrow declared NBN Co’s interest in 5G late last year, though he couched it mostly in terms of a metro-based use case in which fixed-line services could be augmented with a 5G-based service.

Owen’s comments indicate the company’s thinking is also focused on the future upgradeability of its LTE-based fixed wireless network.

However, Owen cautioned that NBN Co still saw plenty of life in existing LTE technologies.

“We are certainly not done with 4G yet,” he said.

“We have a number of initiatives underway using next generation 4G technology such as MIMO to deliver an improved end user experience on fixed wireless.

“But we absolutely want to look at what 5G will offer in the future to all Australians wherever they may live.”

NBN Co’s 5G-ready spectrum has been a hot topic in recent months.

The company largely acquired rights to use it before it was promoted for international harmonisation of 5G services.

This has dramatically increased its value, as evidenced by recent auction results in Australia, and has renewed some pressure on NBN Co, the government and regulators to review NBN Co’s allocation.

All of the currently active commercial mobile telcos - Telstra, Optus and Vodafone - are conducting their own trials of 5G technology.

Telstra and Optus have duelling trials on the Gold Coast, coinciding with the Commonwealth Games.

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