Five companies have signed up to conduct trials of NBN Co's fixed-wireless long-term evolution (LTE) network, ZDNet Australia has learned.
A source close to the agreement told ZDNet Australia that NBN Co has selected five companies to trial services on the fixed-wireless network that will cover four of the final 7 per cent of premises in Australia not covered by the fibre roll-out.
It is understood that the first trial will be conducted in Armidale, which was not one of the first five wireless sites announced by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy in August last year, but which resides within the electorate of key regional independent MP Tony Windsor. Armidale was also the first mainland NBN first-release site to have an official launch last year.
NBN Co told ZDNet Australia that the agreements for the wireless trial with the five companies are still being formalised.
"After an expression-of-interest process, five companies have been selected to take part in the test phase of the fixed-wireless service trial," NBN Co said. "We are still in the process of formalising the agreements."
ZDNet Australia has asked a number of telcos whether they have been selected. It is understood that iiNet is one of the five companies that has been chosen to trial, and Internode has confirmed that it will participate in the trial.
According to a sign-up page, Rivertel has been seeking customers for a trial that will run until 30 April 2012 in Armidale, Ballarat, Tamworth and Toowoomba. The trial will be free of charge, and there will be a 10GB quota provided, which, once exceeded, will see the download speed reduced from 12 megabits per second to 64 kilobits per second.
The news comes as NBN Co has begun lodging a number of planning applications with local councils in the originally planned first five wireless sites for the construction of 40-metre towers to enable the fixed-wireless LTE network.
NBN Co is already facing local opposition to the tower in Smeaton and Buninyong, with residents concerned about the health implications of any towers to be built near their premises.
The first five sites will cover 14,000 premises, and are scheduled to be up and running by the middle of this year, with the fixed-wireless portion of the NBN roll-out to be completed by 2015.