NBN To Double Broadband Speeds For Regional Australia

NBN's Fixed Wireless towers are delivering metro broadband speeds beyond the major cities. Image: NBN

Australians living off the beaten track are getting broadband speeds to rival the cities, with 100 Mbps Fixed Wireless NBN services scheduled to launch across the country early next year.

Demonstrated in the Victorian regional city of Ballarat this week, the service offers 100 Mbps download speeds and 40 Mbps uploads — the speed boost coming thanks to new carrier aggregation technology which bonds multiple channels to create a single high-speed connection.

The new speed tier will be available in Fixed Wireless NBN areas across the country, as it does not require a network upgrade or changes to the Fixed Wireless towers. The improved speeds won't extend the range of Fixed Wireless, which remains limited to within 14 km of a tower.

To take advantage of the new 100 Mbps plans, existing Fixed Wireless customers will need to upgrade their on-premises Wireless Network Terminal Device. The new 100 Mbps-capable Wireless NTDs – developed by Ericsson, NetComm and Qualcomm – will eventually become standard issue for all new Fixed Wireless installations, although there is potential for further speed boosts down the track.

Initially only offering 12/1 Mbps speeds when it launched in 2011, today the Fixed Wireless NBN service is available to almost 500,000 premises across Australia – with almost 170,000 users currently accessing speeds up to 50/20 Mbps.

Remote premises beyond the reach of the Fixed Wireless footprint rely on NBN's SkyMuster satellite service, although the latest data reveals that more than 4000 urban premises across Australia may be shunted across to the satellite service. SkyMuster only offers 25/5 Mbps plans, which are more expensive than the plans available via other NBN technologies.

While Fixed Wireless relies on similar 4G LTE technologies to those used by mobile broadband services, it can only be accessed by a fixed antenna on the roof and is not available to mobile devices.

In return Fixed Wireless aims to offer a more reliable service than mobile broadband, with more control over the number of users and less network congestion during peak times.

Fixed Wireless NBN towers operate in clusters, connected to a central tower via microwave links. This central tower connects via fibre to an NBN Point of Interconnection – typically located at a telephone exchange. Around 20 percent of the nation's 2600 Fixed Wireless NBN towers are connected via fibre.

To cope with the increased load of 100/40 Mbps connections, the NBN anticipates increasing the fibre capacity to some towers and replacing some microwave links with fibre. Over time it also intends to decreases the number of premises per sector.

This article originally appeared on the SMH.

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