NBN Co says less than 4 per cent of fixed wireless cells congested

Down from 6 per cent earlier this year

Less than 4 per cent of NBN Co’s fixed wireless cells are suffering from congestion, according to the company’s CEO, Stephen Rue.

NBN Co defines a cell as congested when performance dips below an average of 6 megabits per second (Mbps) per user during peak usage periods.

There have been “a very small number of cells” congested during peak periods, Rue said in remarks prepared for a Melbourne CommsDay conference. In March, NBN Co said that some 6 per cent of cells were congested.

The most recent edition of NBN Co’s corporate plan, published in August, revealed that the company was expecting the cost of the NBN to be $2 billion higher than previously forecast. One of the key factors driving up the cost of the network is an $800 million investment in improving the performance of fixed wireless services.

When NBN Co’s fixed wireless service launched in 2011, it offered a maximum speed of 12/1Mbps. Downloads averaged 30GB per month per service, Rue said in his speech.

“The mass take-up of over-the-top video streaming from mid-2015 has helped propel usage to more than 180GB per month on the network – a truly astonishing increase,” the NBN Co CEO said.

“Given the shared capacity of the fixed wireless medium — and with take-up on some towers sitting at more than 50 per cent — it’s little surprise that we’ve experienced some congestion on the network.”

The additional $800 million NBN Co has earmarked for fixed wireless will boost its total investment in the technology to $4 billion.

NBN Co is consulting with the telecommunications industry on the introduction of new fixed wireless products, the CEO said. The company recently launched new ‘bundled’ fixed wireless products that have a single fee for access and capacity.

“This is all in the interests of customer experience,” Rue said. “We understand that some end-users have been frustrated by the congestion they’ve experienced.”

Last month the company agreed to incorporate more information about fixed wireless performance in its monthly progress reports, which have so far focused on the fixed-line portion of NBN Co’s access network.

As part of an enforceable undertaking offered to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), NBN Co said it would publish the percentage of wireless network cells that have average download speeds falling into different ranges during periods of peak demand (less than 3Mbps, 3-6Mbps, 6-12Mbps, 12-25Mbps, 25Mbps+).

The company said it would also reveal the average number of hours a day that the cells delivering less than 6Mbps are congested.

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