Aussie Broadband calls for retrofit funding in regional telecoms review

Internet service provider Aussie Broadband is pushing for retrofit funding as part of the fix for fixed wireless congestion. Aussie Broadband MD Phillip Britt said that in its submission to the Federal Government’s regional telecommunications review, the firm believes there is now cause to revisit the fixed wireless footprint.

“We estimate from analysing our own data that at least 18% of the fixed wireless network is currently experiencing what we define as severe congestion. Our analysis of NBN data leads us to believe that 12% of the network is experiencing what NBN defines as unacceptable congestion,” Britt said.

nn “It’s obvious to us that fixed wireless has, to some degree, been a victim of its own success. It was rolled out early in the NBN schedule and demand for services since then – what is often called “the Netflix effect” – have escalated,” he said, adding that at least part of the fix should be more Federal Government funding to revisit the fixed wireless footprint.

“Many denser rural township areas or parts of township areas allocated to fixed wireless in the early part of the NBN rollout could now be serviced by lower cost FTTN or FTTC technology,” he said.

“Ideally, no-one on a quarter acre township block should be serviced down the track by fixed wireless. It should really be used to service customers on larger blocks around the outskirts of towns, and rural properties where appropriate. Removing denser parts of townships from the network would help free up capacity for surrounding customers on fixed wireless,” Britt said.

He also said there were numerous examples of whole towns that could be switched from fixed wireless to fixed line services, such as Toongabbie and Glengarry in regional Gippsland and Port Wakefield in South Australia.

Meanwhile, townships such as Blayney in NSW or Kalbar in Queensland, have suburbs located side-by-side that show a current digital divide between customers on congested fixed wireless and those on fixed line services.

“It would not be hard to go back into these towns and retrofit those areas to fixed line services,” said Britt. “It’s a natural progression for the NBN and probably one they already have planned – we would just like to see it funded earlier. It also has the potential to increase NBN’s average revenue per user in those areas, by shifting customers to higher capacity technologies.”

In addition, the Aussie Broadband MD said the ISP has again pushed for a common definition of congestion in its submission to the Federal Government.

“There are a range of definitions of congestion in the telco universe,” Britt said. “For example, we define severe congestion as averaging less than 50% of a speed plan for 12 hours or more per day. NBN uses a slightly different definition, as does the ACCC. We think it would be helpful – especially for customers – if there was an agreed definition to base conversations around.”

Britt said that as a regionally-based telco, Aussie Broadband had a deep understanding of the challenges that currently face the fixed wireless network. “We’re not interested in the blame game here; what we’re interested in is a network that will  deliver good quality internet to regional Australians now and into the future,” he said.

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