NBN no longer plans to offer a 100 megabits per second (Mbps) fixed wireless service.
NBN CEO Bill Morrow told a Senate Estimates hearing that the network operator has “killed” the idea, removing it from its roadmap.
NBN as recently as March last year said that it was planning to offer a 100/40Mbps wholesale service over its fixed wireless LTE (4G) network beginning in early 2018.
Computerworld understands the decision to kill the 100Mbps service was made relatively recently.
While the cost of adding bandwidth to a fixed-line network grows linearly, adding capacity to a fixed-wireless network grows in an “exponential” manner, Morrow told the hearing.
The cost of offering 100Mbps would be “outrageous,” the CEO said.
The fixed wireless service initially launched offering up to 25/5Mbps, with NBN in September 2015 announcing it would boost the maximum speed to 50/20Mbps.
NBN in February said that it was working to address capacity issues that were affecting end user speeds at a number of its wireless cells. As of 30 November, NBN classified wireless cells in nine locations as congested.
Earlier this month Morrow said that the “capacity design” NBN had employed for fixed wireless “is no longer sufficient”.
The company is currently conducting trials using the emerging 5G wireless standard using 100MHz of spectrum from its holdings in the 3.5GHz band.
“We are optimistic about [5G] providing an improvement to the existing fixed wireless network that NBN has,” Morrow told tonight's hearing. “So very much [it] will be a part of our program going forward. We do not necessarily plan to expand the fixed wireless footprint because of 5G, nor do we plan to offer any sort of mobility services such as what the existing mobile carriers offer.”
NBN has seen “near-gigabit per second capability” during in-lab 5G trials, the CEO said. “But the important thing for us about 5G… is that it offers an improvement in the spectral efficiency – so effectively you can offer more service within the same frequency band that was used before. That’s great news for capacity relief, that’s great news for keeping the cost as low as possible so we can keep our prices as low as possible.”
NBN chief financial officer Stephen Rue said that NBN had so far incurred capital costs of $2 billion rolling out its fixed wireless network.
As of 31 March, 227,000 households and businesses had active NBN fixed wireless services. NBN operates more than 2500 wireless sites for the service.
Along with satellite, fixed wireless is considered a ‘non-commercial’ service by NBN because it costs more to deliver than it returns in revenue. The government is legislating a subsidy scheme to support the operation of non-commercial services.
Legislation to create the Regional Broadband Scheme was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month; it is yet to be introduced into the Senate.
NBN next year is planning to launch business-grade services using its Sky Muster satellites.