NBN considers throttling fixed wireless ‘superusers’

NBN mulls fair use policy to limit impact of heavy fixed wireless users

NBN is examining ways it to minimise the impact of what CEO Bill Morrow has dubbed “superusers” on the performance of its fixed-wireless service, including potentially introducing a ‘fair use’ policy.

“We’re not yet to point of proposing anything but… we’re looking at all options including a fair use policy,” Morrow told a parliamentary hearing into the National Broadband Network.

NBN’s Sky Muster satellite service currently has a fair use policy for end users. The company last year revised the policy, enabling Sky Muster users to download more data during peak periods. Under the current NBN fair use policy for the service, the monthly downloads per household are capped at 400GB, with maximum usage during a peak period set at 150GB a month.

In February, NBN detailed its plans to boost capacity across its LTE-based fixed wireless network, in order to combat congestion problems encountered in a minority of the network’s cells.

Morrow said today that NBN is looking at a range of issues that can affect fixed wireless performance including caching, the tower architecture underpinning the network, and facility sharing with other carriers

Average consumption across NBN’s network is just under 200GB per premises per month, Morrow said.  Data consumption in fixed wireless areas is “substantially less than that,” the CEO added.

“However, in the fixed wireless there’s a large portion [of end users] that are using terabytes of data,” Morrow said. “We’re evaluating a form of fair use policy to say, ‘We would groom these extreme users’,” the CEO said.

“Now the grooming could be that, during the busy period of the day when these heavy users are impacting the majority, that they actually get throttled back to where they’re taking down what everybody else is taking down.”

During non-busy periods, there would be no restriction on downloads, he added.

He said that NBN believes that the fixed wireless “superusers” are predominantly “gamers” (NBN later released a statement clarifying the CEO's comments). Morrow later said that because NBN operates as a provider of Layer 2 network services, it didn’t have access to Layer 3 and Layer 4 data “to know exactly how they’re using it”. “We’ve heard from the people that do have familiarity with it,” he added.

Morrow took a question on notice as to how many superusers there are on the fixed wireless network.

“It’s big enough to where if we did groom them during the busy time of the day, it would be a substantial lift for people,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a silver bullet in any of this – this is going to require us to think through a number of different areas.”

“No decision” has been made, Morrow said.

Morrow revealed in May that NBN had decided to kill its previously announced plan to offer a 100Mbps wireless service. While the cost of adding bandwidth to a fixed-line network grows linearly, adding capacity to NBN’s fixed-wireless network to deliver 100Mbps would have an “exponential” cost, Morrow told a Senate Estimates hearing.

NBN announced last week it was consulting with telcos on bundled wholesale pricing for fixed wireless.

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Tags broadbandNetworkingnbn coTelecommunicationsNational Broadband Network (NBN)fixed wireless

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