Fixed line and mobile wireless broadband complement each other

  • Why Mobile Broadband can't replace fixed line
  • Both networks fill a need
  • Fixed Wireless a component of the NBN

In recent debate based around the National Broadband Network (NBN), people who want the massive infrastructure project laud the positive aspects of having a fibre optic fixed line to the home. On the other side of the argument, people against the NBN have expressed the belief that mobile wireless broadband is the answer to Australia’s broadband internet needs.

It would seem both sides are correct, but neither hold the sole solution to our giant geographical landmass’s internet dilemma. With the recent release of the Internet Activity Survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, results point to a future of combined communication technologies, with the solution being driven by customer demand as well as technological capabilities.

Fixed Line ADSL and Fibre to the Home broadband:

The National Broadband Network is proposed to be a giant fibre optic-to-the-home infrastructure that would cover around 93% of Australian homes. The reason this type of broadband is essential for Australia’s future is because current mobile wireless technologies, although growing in popularity at an amazing rate, are not capable of transferring large amounts of data. They are also unable to run at the ultra high speeds necessary for many modern broadband services like the streaming of HD internet TV.

The Internet Activity Survey showed the number of Australians using internet at speeds of less than 1.5Mbps decreased by 27% over a one and a half year period ending in June, 2010, whereas people accessing speeds faster than 1.5Mbps increased by 64%, and those using 8Mbps or greater went up by 58%.

People want faster speeds, and these are not currently available with mobile wireless technologies. Therefore, we are using our fast fixed line connections more than ever before.

Mobile wireless broadband:

The type of broadband emitted by mobile phone towers definitely has its place in Australia’s future broadband infrastructure. Currently the technology is not as stable as a fixed line connection, but proponents of this type of service believe this will be dealt with as mobile wireless evolves. 4G, WiMAX and LTE are all new types of mobile wireless broadband that will help us in the future.

Mobile wireless broadband is necessary because people are often on the move away from home and need to get online wherever they are. It’s also great for people who share houses or who don’t intend to live in one area for a long time. However, the fact mobile wireless usage in Australia has increased ten-fold over the last three years has not diminished the need for fixed line broadband at home.

The number of current subscribers on fixed line technologies like ADSL and ADSL2+ has not decreased since the advent of mobile wireless broadband. The saturation point for ADSL has been reached, but figures show we are now downloading much more data than in the past. The amount of data downloaded is more than any mobile wireless connection could feasibly handle, and this is shown by the fact 92% of all data is still transferred via fixed line connections.

People who cannot afford to be online are still off-line, as many Australians still don’t own a computer. As the number of fixed line connections has not decreased since the mobile wireless boom began, the main spike of mobile wireless growth can be attributed to people who wish to compliment their fixed line broadband connection at home with a mobile device they can take with them on business or holiday.

Fixed line and mobile wireless go hand-in-hand:

Neither political party has its hands on the main solution to Australia’s internet needs, and telling one another the other’s answer is wrong is not a logical conclusion.

It is extremely doubtful whether mobile wireless broadband will ever have the capabilities for data, speed and stability that fixed lines like fibre optic and ADSL2+ encompass. However, its mobility and ease of use on the move is of great value to many Australians. Also, in rare rural locations where fixed lines cannot reach, this technology is and will be invaluable to the communities who live there.

To say mobile wireless broadband is the saviour of Australia’s internet problems is simply a fallacy. These days internet applications often require large amounts of data that cannot be transferred successfully via mobile wireless broadband. Also, we require extremely quick speeds for video conferencing and streaming of video, and it’s common knowledge the more people downloading from a single mobile phone tower, the slower your speed will be.

As fibre-to-the-home broadband runs anywhere from 100Mbps to 1Gbps, and ADSL2+ runs at up to 24Mbps, the current average 1.5Mbps of mobile wireless is incomparable. Even when the technology evolves further the size of files is just too great.

The ABS data shows overall data usage increased by 55% in the quarter to December, 2010 when compared with the same period in 2009. Mobile wireless data only increased 19% over this same period, and only made up 8% of all downloads. There are many more mobile wireless users, but we are using our ADSL2+ connections to download more data than ever.

Fixed line broadband connections never have to contend with black spots where the signal doesn’t reach you. Dropouts because of lost signals are also much more rare than with mobile wireless.

The truth is though, you can’t carry your fixed line connection on holiday, and Australia’s landmass is so large, it is not economical for fixed lines to be available in all locations. In some instances it’s not even viable for mobile wireless, and it is in these areas improved satellite broadband will need to be used.

Lastly we must consider the price of a broadband connection. In recent times the cost of a high speed ADSL connection with large amounts of data has measurably decreased. Stats show people are willing to pay a little extra for a faster speed and more data.

If the majority of Australians get access to super-fast fibre optic connections, but don't have to pay more than they’re currently paying, this step in evolution will be tantamount to fulfilling our obvious desire for more speed and data.

The future of Australian broadband infrastructure needs to be a combination of fixed line, mobile wireless and satellite technologies. The proposed NBN may be extremely expensive, but it would ensure that for many decades to come Australia’s business, social and community needs will be at an optimum level, putting us at the forefront of global information technology nations.