NBN Co mulls mmWave for potential boost to fixed wireless capacity

Pushes for access to spectrum allocated for 5G services in South Korea, the US, Canada, Japan, and Singapore

NBN Co wants Australia’s spectrum regulator to leave open the option of the government-owned company acquiring licences for so-called mmWave frequencies to help combat the capacity squeeze of its fixed wireless service.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is currently assessing options for the future use of the 26GHz and 28GHz bands. Internationally, a number of nations have earmarked spectrum in at least one of those bands for use in 5G services.

The ACMA has indicated it currently intends to make a large amount of spectrum in the 26GHz band available for 5G services. However, for the 28GHz band its position so far is to exclude 5G services from the band; instead the ACMA has suggested a hybrid approach that would allocate spectrum for use with satellite services, fixed wireless services, and point-to-point wireless services.

In a submission to a recent ACMA consultation on the band, parts of which are redacted because they are considered commercially sensitive, NBN Co says that it has two key business objectives with 28GHz spectrum: One is securing an upgrade path for its satellite service and preventing any interference in its operation, and the other is to “identify and secure spectrum access opportunities to ... provide an upgrade path for its fixed wireless network.”

“With respect to mmWave, NBN Co’s main focus is on assessing the technology and its potential suitability for use on our fixed wireless network,” an NBN Co spokesperson told Computerworld.

“It’s still early days and our considerations will in-part depend on the emergence and availability of products and equipment that suit our network and requirements, as well as access to suitable spectrum.”

NBN Co’s holds spectrum in 2.3GHz, 3.4GHz and 3.5GHz bands that it can currently use for fixed wireless.

In its submission the company said that ACMA should consider a potential use model that isn’t contemplated in the regulator’s 28GHz discussion paper: Satellite networks should be “accorded primary status” in the 27.5-29.5GHz range Australia-wide, but spectrum should also be made available for fixed wireless access (FWA) as a “secondary service”.

A number of licence conditions would be imposed on fixed wireless service operators, including an emissions mask and base station density restrictions. The use of the extended 28GHz band for mobile network services would be explicitly excluded in the Australian Radio Frequency Spectrum Plan, and the ACMA definition of FWA would be expanded to cover NBN Co’s wireless services.

The company endorsed the exclusion of 5G mobile broadband from the band noting that “the ACMA’s 26 GHz planning decisions accommodate 2.4 GHz of spectrum licences that would be available for mobile network operators and agrees that these applications are adequately catered for in the 26 GHz band.”

NBN Co has waged an ongoing battle with the capacity constraints of its fixed wireless service. An $800 million initiative to boost capacity on the service led to the company revising the expected cost of the NBN rollout.

Data released by the company reveals that in April, 96.7 per cent of its wireless cells met its target of offering 6Mbps or faster during peak usage periods. That was a slight drop on the prior month, when 97.1 per cent met the target, but a significant improvement on 12 months earlier when only 93.3 per cent delivered 6Mbps+ during peak usage. In April, 15.92 per cent of cells met the 6Mbps+ target, but still delivered less than 12Mbps during peak periods.

Australia’s telcos have called on the ACMA to leave the option of 5G services in the band on the table.

The ACMA intends to release a decision paper and preliminary views paper for the 28GHz band in Q3.

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Tags broadbandNetworkingnbn coTelecommunicationsNational Broadband Network (NBN)Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)spectrumfixed wireless

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