In live testing at an "nbn proof of concept site" near Mortlake, Victoria, pictured above, nbn and its technology partners, Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies Inc. and Casa Systems, say they have achieved "a stable 5G mmWave transmission of close to 1Gbps at a distance of 7.3km, double the distance recorded at the site just three months ago, and a new record globally. nbn anticipates ongoing testing to demonstrate even longer range capability in the future”.
We are advised, however, that “these speeds were achieved in the context of a trial and are not necessarily reflective of the speeds that will be experienced by end customers”, which makes sense given the fact the trial site is obviously one where there aren’t huge buildings in the way and the massive density of people and 5G devices that you’d find in a city centre.
Still, given the trial is designed to augment nbn’s fixed wireless capacity, which is generally used by people who aren’t in range of wired connectivity or 3G, 4G and 5G connections, or affordable such access, this is a great development that will hopefully see deployment sooner rather than later to give those in fixed wireless areas much better and faster connectivity options.
nbn itself says it is “exploring 5G technology operating in mmWave spectrum as part of its commitment to continually enhance customer experience and evolve the Fixed Wireless network for future needs”, with the fixed wireless network “currently covering more than 620,000 premises across regional and rural Australia with more than 90% of customers currently within 7.3km of a Fixed Wireless cell”.
Recognising the unique long-range requirements of the nbn Fixed Wireless network, we are told that “the field measurements will provide development guidance for wireless technology suppliers, while helping nbn understand the most cost-effective, and spectrum-efficient ways to integrate 5G into its evolving network architecture”.
nbn also reminds us that it “currently invests around $200 million annually in measures to optimise the performance of the Fixed Wireless network within finite spectrum and resource limitations.
“Under initiatives already implemented, the Fixed Wireless network exhibits spectral efficiency levels above 4bps/Hz in the downlink and 1.6bps/Hz in the uplink, challenging global benchmarks of even the highest performing 4G networks. nbn’s own performance benchmarking shows that 99.9% of Fixed Wireless network cells and 100.0% of Fixed Wireless backhaul links are currently performing at or above their design thresholds”.
nbn also states that it “anticipates continued innovation and technology developments on the existing 4G platform to further enhance average and peak user speeds to complement a targeted 5G implementation in the future”.
Working with its technology partners, nbn says its current and ongoing optimisation initiatives include:
- Wider deployment of carrier aggregation to improve load balancing across available spectrum and enhance single user data rates.
- Introduction of advanced antenna technologies such as multi-beam wideband antennas, Massive MIMO, multi-user MIMO and coordinated multipoint transmission to improve spectrum efficiency and reduce interference while driving down the cost per bit to accommodate greater traffic growth.
- Optimisation of end user radio conditions, actively balancing user profiles and reducing the average number of users per cell to achieve increased data rates for users. Following a 20% increase in the number of active cells in the last twelve months, there are currently 19 users per cell on average, a reduction from historical levels of around 60.
- Introduction of new high-capacity backhaul solutions, including increasing penetration of fibre and additional traffic engineering capability to improve uptime and reduce congestion.
- Increased deployment of advanced end user equipment for wider support of advanced radio features, enhancing individual user experience as well as increasing network spectral efficiency.
NBN Co Chief Development Officer, Regional and Remote, Gavin Williams said: “The nbn Fixed Wireless network plays a vital role connecting Australians right across regional and rural parts of the country.
“We face some unique challenges, not least vast distances and harsh environments, that have always required a strong focus on innovation.
“This long-range achievement is a very promising sign as we continue to develop our options to further improve performance and customer experience and plan to meet emerging demand on the network,” Williams concluded.
NBN Co Chief Technology Officer, Ray Owen said: “This is a significant achievement for nbn and our technology partners, Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies and Casa Systems, we anticipate strong interest from the global technology community as we further develop these capabilities.
“With industry development for mmWave largely focussed on high-density urban environments, this trial helps prove the case for additional work to suit the unique requirements of the nbn Fixed Wireless network and other regional and rural use-cases around the world.”
So, whatever you think of the National Broadband Network and the company building it, it’s good to see progress being made and the reality of 5G technologies being recognised as a way to augment the delivery of super fast broadband to as many people as possible.
That’s not to say the nbn wlll start offering 5G in cities anytime soon - that appears to be the sole province of traditional telcos at the moment, but in the future, who knows? Anything is possible, and with super fast satellite broadband also being launched by various players including Elon Musk as we speak and over the next decade, ubiquitous high-speed broadband is in everyone’s future, and presumably at ever better prices as competition keeps the market vibrant and honest.
Let’s hope so, anyway! Until then, may the super fast broadband be with you, to infinity and beyond!