NBN plans capacity boost for fixed wireless network

Company cites data growth

NBN plans to boost the capacity of its fixed wireless service, according to the company’s executive general manager for access products, Gavin Williams.

In a blog entry posted today, Williams said that due to increased demand, NBN will “further invest in an upgrade program to expand the capacity of our wireless towers”.

“On the fixed wireless network, we have seen a significant spike in the amount of data being used in recent months, particularly in peak times,” Williams wrote.

“In addition to more data being used over a longer period of time, we are seeing a notable increase of concurrent users. This is often referred to as the 'Netflix effect' where many households sit down after dinner to stream their favourite show.”

In answer to a question on notice from an October Senate Estimates hearing, NBN earlier this month revealed that as of 30 November, it classified wireless cells in nine locations as congested.

The company said it planned to upgrade towers in Woolgoolga and Marian North late last year, and this year was intending to boost capacity at Bees Creek, Humpty Doo, Clunes North, Howard Springs, Millthorpe, Smythesdale and Worrolong.

NBN said it classified as congested a cell that delivered speeds less than 3 megabits per second in the busiest hour of the day.

It can take up to 12 months for a tower upgrade to be completed after it is triggered by NBN. The ownership of a tower and associated access regime can affect the upgrade timeline, according to the company.

If NBN owns a tower, the lead time for an upgrade can be as low as three months. The also company has a ‘zero-based design’ project in the works that it believes will optimise the capacity upgrade process and reduce lead times.

“The time taken to move from initiation of the upgrade process to completion of the upgrade can vary and may be from as little as 3 months to 12 months, depending on the ownership of the infrastructure that the nbn equipment is mounted upon,” NBN said in a written response to the Senate Environment and Communications committee.

“In the case where the infrastructure is owned by other parties it can be a lengthy process to secure access to firstly reserve space for the new equipment, and then to physically access the site and install the required equipment.”

“Sometimes there can be a slight delay to the upgrade of one facility while the ‘upstream’ network dependencies that connect that facility are upgraded,” NBN said.

Upgrading a tower will leave end users without a connection for around two to four hours.

As of September 30 last year, rolling out the fixed wireless network had cost NBN $1.65 billion.

NBN’s fixed wireless service along with its satellite broadband service are set to be scrutinised as part of a new parliamentary inquiry.

Parliament’s NBN committee will also examine the publicly owned company’s business model.

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Tags broadbandNetworkingnbn conational broadband networkNational Broadband Network (NBN)fixed wireless

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