NBN Co tests 3.5GHz LTE

NBN Co has successfully conducted trials to use the 3.5GHz spectrum band for its fixed-wireless network in partnership with Ericsson.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

In a world first -- by necessity -- NBN Co has trialled the use of LTE TDD in the 3.5GHz spectrum band.

NBN Co's fixed-wireless network has thus far been deployed in the 2.3GHz spectrum band using spectrum acquired from Austar.

In 2014, the Australian government identified that NBN Co lacked the spectrum in outer metro areas to service an expected 80,000 premises across Australia. As a result, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull issued a ministerial declaration in August offering up the 3.5GHz spectrum band for the fixed-wireless network.

The 3.5GHz spectrum band had not been used elsewhere for LTE deployments, according to Ericsson Australia and New Zealand head Hakan Eriksson, prior to NBN Co beginning testing in December.

According to reports, NBN Co has obtained licences in around 41 locations in outer metro areas of Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, but the company said on Sunday that just two locations were used for the initial trial.

The company used 20MHz of spectrum in the trial, and achieved the maximum speed offered on the fixed-wireless service of 50Mbps. NBN Co has access to up to 200MHz of spectrum on the band.

The end-user devices were supplied by NetComm Wireless.

Eriksson said that the antennas installed on top of the premises as part of the trial were designed similar to a "baseball mitt" in that although the 3.5GHz beam is relatively narrow, the capture of it on the antenna was wide to ensure that line to sight between the NBN Co tower and the premises' antenna was maintained.

Ericsson said on Sunday that the results were promising, and the 3.5GHz TDD LTE ecosystem needs to be advanced to ensure the availability of devices that use the spectrum.

Josh Taylor travelled to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as a guest of Ericsson.

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