NBN doubles fixed-wireless speeds

NBN customers connected to the company's fixed-wireless network will see their download speeds doubled, from 25Mbps to 50Mbps.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) company has announced upgrades to its fixed-wireless service, which will now deliver broadband at speeds of up to 50Mbps down and 20Mbps up to remote parts of Australia.

Fixed-wireless technology makes use of radio signals from ground stations to transmit data to home equipment. The upgraded form is double the 25Mbps down originally on offer for the past two and a half years.

"By the time we complete the NBN network rollout in 2020, this world-leading broadband service will provide more than half a million homes and businesses living in regional and rural Australia with access to faster internet speeds that rival what their city cousins have available today," Gavin Williams, executive general manager of Fixed Wireless Product and Sales at NBN said in a statement on Monday morning.

Communications Minister cum Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull first flagged NBN's intentions to trial faster fixed-wireless services in April, with the testing set to begin in May.

"This pilot will be available to all customers on the 25Mbps," Turnbull said. "The commercial launch is planned for late 2015."

This followed NBN and Ericsson announcing that a trial of the fixed-wireless network using spectrum in the 3.5GHz band had attained 50Mbps download speeds.

The so-called multi-technology mix (MTM) NBN, due to be completed in 2020 and expected to cost up to AU$56 billion in peak funding, will bring fixed-wireless to more than 540,000 premises.

NBN moved away from a full fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) rollout following the Coalition's election, with the present multi-technology mix angling to provide 38 percent of the population with fibre to the node (FttN) and fibre to the basement (FttB), making use of the existing copper lines; 34 percent with hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC); 20 percent with FttP; 5 percent with fixed-wireless; and 3 percent with satellite services.

The technology being delivered to each premises depends on the geographic positioning of an area, with those living in metropolitan areas receiving HFC, FttN, FttP, or FttB. Fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FttDP) connections may be utilised for premises that are located more than 1 kilometre from a node, with those in even more remote areas to receive fixed-wireless or satellite services.

"Following the launch of Sky Muster, NBN's first satellite, this milestone is yet another critical part of our plan to help bridge the nation's digital divide," Williams added.

"We're closer than ever before to being on a level playing field between the city and the bush by providing kids in rural areas with access to digital textbooks, farmers with the latest technology, and creating a world of new possibilities for regional small businesses."

NBN's fixed-wireless service is already available in Albury, Coffs Harbour, Nowra, and Wagga Wagga in New South Wales; Bendigo in Victoria; Adelaide Hills and Riverland in South Australia; Mackay, Bundaberg, Gympie, and Toowoomba in Queensland; Katanning and Pinjarra in Western Australia; North West Coast and Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania; and Howard Springs and Berry Springs in the Northern Territory.

The fixed-wireless upgrade follows news last week that the cost of replacing and repairing Telstra's legacy copper network has blown out to AU$640 million, and another leaked document two weeks before that revealing that Optus' HFC network is "not fully fit for purpose", with 470,000 premises in the footprint needing to be overbuilt by either Telstra HFC or fibre services.