NBN to begin trial of LTE wireless network

  • Average speed of 12Mbps
  • Concerns raised over size and placement of towers
  • Armidale, Tamworth, Toowomba, Ballarat in trial

Australian IT site ZDNet have reported that NBNCo, the builders of the National Broadband Network, will be enlisting up to five service providers to take part in their “fixed wireless” broadband trial, to be offered across 14,000 residences in regional areas such as Armidale (NSW), Ballarat (VIC) and Toowoomba (QLD).

Current mobile broadband solutions from Telstra, Vodafone and Optus (the source network for most low-cost resellers) offer speeds ranging from 1 Mbps to 40Mbps, heavily dependent on location, distance to tower, type of tower and network congestion. The large variance in service standards across so many retailers has spurred NBNCo into branding their wireless service as “fixed”, and to strive for a 12Mbps standard that exclusively serves data under one protocol, and not accompanying mobile cellular calls.

Despite recent controversy from residents in Smeaton and Buninyong over the placement of 40 metre towers, NBNCo is confident that the trial will demonstrate the effectiveness of its LTE (Long Term Evolution) wireless broadband service. While fixed fibre-optic cable will constitute 93% of the planned NBN, the remaining 7% of remote or wide-spread citizens will be served by a mix of LTE and Satellite connections. LTE might account for 4% by recent estimates, but with luck, could account for more. Satellite services are far costlier to provision and are generally far less reliable.

This news comes during a big week for wireless related news, with Telstra announcing that it will be offering a phone later this month capable of taking advantage of its new 4G network (also billed as “LTE”) and that Telstra will also finally be offering its 3G network to resellers. Meanwhile, Optus and Vodafone continue to build their own 4G/LTE networks.