Optus unveils an NBN-like 50Mbps-plus wireless service

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Optus unveils an NBN-like 50Mbps-plus wireless service
What Optus' fixed wireless modem looks like.

With unlimited data quota.

Optus has revealed it will offer a wireless broadband service capable of at least 50Mbps speeds with unlimited data quota for $70 a month.

The telco took out full-page advertisements in major newspapers to announce the arrival of what it calls its 5G network.

The service is set to come with what Optus terms a “50Mbps satisfaction guarantee” that the telco says allows customers to exit a contract if speeds don’t hit that minimum level.

That appears to be partially a regulatory nod to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which pinged many NBN providers last year for selling services incapable of hitting advertised topline speeds.

The reach of the network is currently listed as 61 suburbs across NSW, Queensland, the ACT, Western Australia and South Australia, though most are still not yet live.

For hopeful users in Victoria, the Northern Territory and Tasmania, Optus says that “5G is not currently being rolled out in this state”, although it adds that the list of suburbs will grow.

Residents of suburbs on the list are invited to lodge an expression of interest in the service.

Optus said in a blog post that it will then verify if the address is serviceable, and if so, invite the customer to lodge a service application online.

“If 5G is not serviceable at your address, we will keep your contact details and notify you if 5G home broadband becomes serviceable at your address,” it said.

The telco noted that it does not have customer premises equipment immediately available. “5G devices are scheduled to be available from mid-2019,” it said.

The advertised characteristics of the Optus service are likely to be a concern for NBN Co as well as for regulators and the government, who have consistently dismissed mobile broadband as being substitutable for fixed line services.

Optus said it plans to have 1200 sites offering the fixed wireless service by March 2020.

The network uses radio access network (RAN) equipment and customer premise equipment (CPE) supplied by Nokia.

“We currently have three live in-network cells, but we will be turbo-charging our rollout over the next 12 months,” Optus CEO Allan Lew said in a statement.

Lew said that Optus would deploy the network both by building out new mobile sites and “densifying the network with small cell solutions to increase capacity and speed in highly populated inner-city locations.”

A dense small cell rollout is likely to be closely watched, given community opposition that TPG encountered when rolling out its own now-canned small cell network.

Optus said that in addition to servicing residential customers, the telco planned to deploy its fixed wireless network at “other key customer hotspots surrounding airports, train stations, sports stadiums and CBD locations.”

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