Tuesday, 22 March 2022 16:03

Throwing money at NBN in regions will not lead to automatic fix: Budde Featured

Paul Budde: "I am always worried with election handouts that those strategic issues are left behind and that we thus move on to the next crisis." Paul Budde: "I am always worried with election handouts that those strategic issues are left behind and that we thus move on to the next crisis." Supplied

The Federal Government's announcement of an additional $480 million investment in regional broadband cannot be taken to indicate that the services will automatically improve as the money could just be an election handout, independent telecommunications consultant Paul Budde says.

The announcement, made on Tuesday, indicates the total spend will be $750 million, with the balance, $270 million, coming from the NBN Co, the company rolling out the network.

Budde said in a statement both the fixed wireless and satellite offerings from the NBN Co had been under-performing because of a lack of capacity.

"The extra money will most certainly address that issue and, thus improve the services. The upgrades aim to lift the quality of the network - measured at the busiest time of the day, 8pm - from 6Mbs to 50Mbs, at no extra cost to the user," he pointed out.

At the same time, Budde advised caution, saying that just throwing money at the problem was not enough as "we need to better map the blackspots, the uncovered areas, the marginal areas of the service footprints".

"Once we have such a map, we can link this to the usage patterns in these areas and, as a result, much better targeted upgrades can be provided where they are needed. I am always worried with election handouts that those strategic issues are left behind and that we thus move on to the next crisis."

He said the recent Regional Review had specifically addressed the underlying strategic issues of broadband services in these areas.

Budde also highlighted the fact that both fixed wireless and satellite technologies could easily hit the next barrier if people took up the opportunity and used these networks more.

"Because of the often poor service, usage has been relatively low among these users as they couldn’t be bothered with the slow services they received, so they are going to use the NBN more and for higher quality services (video)," Budde explained.

The main points of the announcement:

  • "The fixed wireless footprint coverage will be expanded by up to 50%, enabling 120,000 additional premises to access fixed wireless services instead of Sky Muster satellite services.
  • "As a result, up to one million premises in regional, rural, and remote Australia and in peri-urban areas will have access to higher speeds on the NBN fixed wireless services or greater data limits on Sky Muster services.
  • "This upgrade will see NBN offer new higher speed services to the fixed wireless network: 100Mbps to all 750,000 premises able to access the new, expanded coverage footprint, and a 250 Mbps service will be available to 85% of premises.
  • "The fixed wireless service will use the latest 5G millimetre (mm) wireless technologies. Rooftop mm antennas will be added to the infrastructure, this allows for the extension of the coverage range from a tower to around 29km. As a result, this will allow higher speeds for everyone serviced by an upgraded tower.
  • "As more people can now be serviced by fixed wireless, fewer people will then be using the satellite service. This allows for the freeing up of more capacity for the remaining NBN Sky Muster users resulting in higher amounts of data for them. The footprint of Sky Muster will be reduced by more than a third.
  • "Average monthly data allowances for standard Sky Muster plans will increase to 55GB in the short term, and to 90GB once the fixed wireless upgrade is complete in around two years."

Budde said: "Obviously, the government handout will also be scrutinised by NBN Co’s competitors who also provide 5G service and others who operate commercial satellite services.

"By upgrading the fixed wireless and satellite services, NBN Co also undermines the opportunities from companies that are using LEO satellites – such as Elon Musk’s Skynet service.

"The upgrades will start reaching the speed levels of the LEOs at much lower costs, so customers will vote with their wallets. The LEO opportunities are thus further pushed back into the remote corners of Australia - this, of course, if NBN Co can deliver on their promises and maintain a high-quality service in the future."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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