Capacity no biggie for our wireless: NBN Co

Summary:As it is a fixed wireless network, the National Broadband Network (NBN) long-term evolution (LTE) deployment will not suffer the same capacity issues as regular mobile networks, according to NBN Co's chief technology officer Gary McLaren.

As it is a fixed wireless network, the National Broadband Network (NBN) long-term evolution (LTE) deployment will not suffer the same capacity issues as regular mobile networks, according to NBN Co's chief technology officer Gary McLaren.

Yesterday, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced that the areas surrounding Geraldton, Toowoomba, Ballarat, Darwin and Tamworth would be the first five regional sites to be connected to the NBN through NBN Co's fixed wireless technology, to be deployed together with Ericsson.

The first sites are expected to cover around 14,000 premises altogether. While many traditional telcos struggle to cope with the volume of users they have at any one time, McLaren told ZDNet Australia that because NBN Co wireless was a fixed network, usage in areas would be predictable, so capacity was less of an issue.

"Because we don't have a mobile network, we're not having to cope with fluctuations in load and devices moving around the cell, so we're looking to be as precise as we can with the dimension of the network," he said.

McLaren said that the locations were chosen because each of the five sites is one of the points of interconnect for the NBN. From these points, fibre will be run out to wireless towers, and, in some cases, microwave will be used between towers. To connect to the service from each premise, McLaren said there would be an A4-sized antenna attached to the side of the house with a cable running to the network termination unit inside the house.

"It'll be a professional install from NBN Co and our contractors that will make sure the signal strength is there, it's actually performing as we expected, can actually achieve 12Mbps," he said.

For the entire wireless network to cover 4 per cent of premises, NBN Co is expecting to have to use around 2300 towers to ensure adequate coverage. The executive said that NBN Co would be looking to use existing telecommunications towers and mobile base stations in place with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, but admitted that there would inevitably be new towers that NBN Co would have to construct.

Despite the rise of data use, and demand for better coverage from telcos, installing towers in communities remains a controversial issue. Regional newspapers frequently report community concerns over the installation of new towers in their area, and often construction plans for new towers fail to come to a head after community backlash. McLaren said that through community consultation, he believes NBN Co will be able to avoid similar backlash.

"I don't think we'll see it as a backlash, we've been talking to people in these communities, we've seen quite a lot of people that are obviously keen to get the service and are expecting infrastructure-like towers will be needed to do it," he said.

"We're working through that with Ericsson [and] obviously with the local communities to make sure they're done in the right way and with the local concerns about any impacts taken on board."

In a similar fashion to the trial NBN fibre sites, McLaren said that NBN Co would use these first five release sites to gain insight into the best roll-out methods for the rest of the country, so the company can develop a detailed design of the network. While the company plans to offer speeds higher than the basic 12Mbps service in the future, he said it was important to first get the network right, to ensure it could offer the promised speeds to everyone in the wireless footprint.

"We don't want to have a situation where ... you have the 'haves' and 'have nots' within a wireless coverage area, so that some can get a high speed and some can't," he said.

Topics: NBN, Broadband, Networking

About

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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