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NBN gives itself until September to get fixed wireless congestion sorted

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(Image: Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

The company responsible for deploying the National Broadband Network (NBN) across Australia has said it wants to have less than 1 percent of its fixed wireless towers suffering from congestion by late September.

Congestion is defined by the company as having a 30-day average busy hour throughput of under 6Mbps.

In its monthly progress report for November, NBN said it had 0.12 percent of its cells below 3Mbps busy hour speeds, and 3.7 percent sitting between 3 and 6Mbps.

Almost half of NBN’s cells, 47 percent, were capable of over 25Mbps at busy periods.

Responding to Senate Estimates Questions on Notice, NBN said at the end of October it had 416 cells below the congestion threshold, a reduction on the 465 counted on July 1.

“There is not only a dedicated program of work in place to ensure the cells that are currently below the engineering threshold are upgraded as a priority, but also a proactive upgrade program to ensure that cells don’t drop below the engineering threshold,” NBN wrote.

To the end of October, NBN said it had upgraded 3855 cells on 452 sites during 2018, with not all cells necessarily below the threshold. The company added that its upgrade program would continue beyond the September 2019 deadline to “maintain the performance” of its fixed wireless network.

Last month, NBN announced it would be shaking up its fixed wireless plans in mid-2019.

The governent-owned broadband wholesaler will drop its top-tier 25-50/5-20 Mbps plan by the end of 2019, and replace it with a best-effort plan called Fixed Wireless Plus. The new plan will initially be capable of 60Mbps download and 20Mbps upload speeds and will cost the same for retailers as part of NBN’s AU$45 a month fixed line 50 bundle.

After spectrum is reallocated in 2020 to conform to an ACMA edict on interference management, NBN said the plan will have the potential to deliver 75/10Mbps speeds.

“The new wholesale Fixed Wireless Plus product is designed to reflect user demand with our insights showing people connected to the Fixed Wireless network are using their service with a ratio of 10:1 downloads compared to uploads,” NBN chief customer officer Brad Whitcomb said at the time.

“We acknowledge there are some users are currently experiencing slower speeds than anticipated in the busy hour on the Fixed Wireless network and want to reassure people that we are working hard alongside the industry to improve network capacity.”

In August, then-incoming NBN CEO Stephen Rue detailed a new wholesale fixed wireless pricing — AU$45 for existing customers and AU$65 for new customers on the 50/20Mbps speed tier — during a joint standing committee hearing; however, after backlash, the company retreated.

A year earlier, NBN had flagged creating a 100/40Mbps fixed wireless tier, but it too was unceremoniously dumped.

Former NBN CEO Bill Morrow told Senate Estimates in May there was no economic case for it.

“We killed it,” Morrow said.

In October, NBN revealed that more than 1,500 fixed-wireless cells had at least one service downloading more than 1TB of data during the month of May.

Despite this, NBN also said it had forecast to have less than 1.4 percent of fixed-wireless users on the dumped 100/40Mbps speed tier by 2022.

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