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Did Someone Say Election? Because Rural Australia’s Getting an NBN Upgrade

Gizmodo Australia logo Gizmodo Australia 23/03/2022 Zachariah Kelly

Regional NBN connections are set to receive an upgrade for the fixed wireless network, which mostly services regional parts of Australia.

Fixed wireless NBN is a type of internet connection that covers massive parts of Australia without the need for fibre to be run straight to the home. Instead, fibre is run to a signal tower, which then distributes the internet connection to homes using radio signals (the signals are received by an antenna at the home). It’s considerably slower than fibre NBN types, considering that data travels through signals instead of through cables.

Now, the Australian government is investing $480 million in strengthening the fixed wireless NBN network. Additionally, Sky Muster plans (that is, NBN serviced by the SkyMuster satellite) will receive higher data limits. An additional $270 million will be contributed to the upgrade by NBN Co through its own funds.

“By using the latest 4G and 5G wireless technology, this upgrade will extend the coverage range from a tower, and allow higher speed services to everyone served by the tower,” says Paul Fletcher, the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts.

“This means more people can be served by NBN fixed wireless; it means higher speed services on the NBN fixed wireless network; and it means higher amounts of data can be used by households and business customers. The upgrade will expand the fixed wireless footprint coverage by up to 50 per cent, enabling 120,000 additional premises to access fixed wireless services instead of Sky Muster satellite services.”


Video: Coalition pledges to upgrade internet in regional areas (ABC NEWS)

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Through this upgrade, homes connected by fixed wireless NBN should be able to access 100Mbps plans, with 250Mbps plans available at 85 per cent of premises.

Speeds are set to increase across the board, too. The announcement claims that the typical average speed during the busy period (around 8 pm) will rise to at least 50Mbps (on eligible plans), up from 6Mbps at the moment.

NBN Co this week also announced an update on its NBN upgrades plan, confirming more suburbs were eligible for fibre upgrades going forward. This isn’t a dissimilar story, however instead of being on a home-by-home basis, the announced fixed wireless upgrades should improve internet connections within a large area. Up to one million premises are connected to the internet using fixed wireless NBN technology.

This signal upgrade will see more fixed wireless premises come on board, those which previously used the slower Sky Muster satellite technology. Remaining Sky Muster users will have access to bigger data plans (Sky Muster plans are currently throttled by strict download limits).

“The NBN has been there to support Australians throughout the pandemic. Our government will continue to make critical investments in the NBN that will enhance the internet experience for households and businesses right now and into the future,” added Minister for Finance Simon Birmingham.

“With faster internet and more data available, these improved services will directly benefit premises already using NBN fixed wireless and satellite services, and particularly the approximately 50, 000 regional businesses with active fixed wireless services.”

The investment is a response to recommendation six of the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review, which addressed regional NBN connectivity.

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