Town Wi-Fi is no NBN killer

Whenever there's a new claim about something being an "NBN killer", there's always a reason to be cynical.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Whenever there's a new claim about something being an "NBN killer", there's always a reason to be cynical.

Be it Alan Jones' "lasers" or hypothetical überfast Wi-Fi, there's always some new technology that pundits are eager to claim dismisses the need for the National Broadband Network (NBN) entirely.

The Daily Telegraph proclaimed last month that a new Wi-Fi service in Gunnedah "walks like the NBN, talks like the NBN — but is about $40 billion cheaper".

Exciting stuff! What is this amazing piece of technology that will have Communications Minister Stephen Conroy crying into his Weet-Bix?

Instead of waiting years for fibre-optic cables to be laid out to their doorsteps while small surrounding communities were left unconnected, the council teamed up with a new company to deliver high-speed Wi-Fi internet to doctors, patients, school students and every business in town.

The main street boasts free Wi-Fi, as a new pilot scheme connects to the web using fibre-optic cables that were laid three decades ago.

Great! How much, and where can we sign up for this free Wi-Fi? The Telegraph wasn't forthcoming with such detail. Last week, however, the company behind the Wi-Fi, TUPS, published a detailed list for pricing, and that's where the "NBN killer" argument comes undone.

Leaving aside speeds, which I doubt will match the NBN, the prices are by far in excess of that we've seen retailers offer so far.

For a consumer, the most you can get in data per month is 20GB. Which will set you back $119. By comparison, for $80 with Optus, you can get 500GB of data per month.

If you want anywhere near that amount in Gunnedah with TUPS, you'll need a business account, where it'll set you back $548 per month for 200GB of data.

The "free" part of the Wi-Fi is 10MB free for visitors. Other than that, the Wi-Fi hotspots only provide access to websites hosted by TUPS.

In any case, TUPS never claimed the technology to be an NBN replacement, and has even expressed interest in becoming a retailer when NBN Co comes to town.

And when NBN Co does, given that there's already spare fibre in the ground, there's a good chance that NBN Co won't need to lay its own fibre over the top.

It's great to see companies step up to fill the gap while NBN Co is rolling out, but it's always handy to have the full facts at hand before claiming anything to be an "NBN killer".

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