$750 million in federal cash to boost regional internet speeds and connect more homes to NBN’s wireless network

Next week’s federal budget will include $480 million to improve regional internet speeds and allow more customers to access NBN’s fixed wireless service.

NBN will spend an additional $270 million on the planned update.

“The upgrade will expand the fixed wireless footprint coverage by up to 50 percent, allowing an additional 120,000 buildings to access fixed wireless services instead of Skymost satellite services,” said Communications Secretary Paul Fletcher.

Fixed wireless technology involves broadcasting an Internet signal from the provider’s base tower to an antenna on the customer’s roof.

It is seen as superior to NBN’s Sky Muster satellite view, and the news of an expansion of its presence in regional Australia is likely to be welcomed.

Woman holding a mobile phone while sitting in a living room
Taraeta Nicholls, of Trayning in WA, has moved to Elon Musk’s Starlink service after being unhappy with NBN’s Sky Muster offer.(ABC: Elisa Borrello)

“Using the latest 4G and 5G wireless technology, this upgrade will extend the coverage from the tower and allow higher speed services to everyone served by the tower,” said Mr. Fletcher.

Faster internet speeds

Slow internet speeds have seen some regional customers spend hundreds of dollars buying entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Starlink online offering.

It promises fast download speeds of 250Mbps and happy customers say they are receiving it.

The government said its upgrade would see the NBN’s fixed wireless service deliver speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (mbps) for all 750,000 buildings in its extended reach, with 85 percent of these services able to reach 250 megabits per second.

Aerial view of a farm and rows of green vineyards.
Not all homes in Regional Australia fall within the NBN’s fixed wireless footprint, but the planned upgrade promises to include an additional 120,000 buildings.

After the upgrade, the planned average peak occupancy period (around 8pm) is expected to increase to at least 50Mbps.

To give context, this is on par with the typical peak speeds many city customers experience on fixed line connections.

The government believes that more regional customers moving to fixed wireless should offload capacity to customers who remain on NBN Sky Muster satellite service.

As a result, the government said the NBN will be able to increase data allowances for Sky Muster customers.

Induction work black spot

In its media statement, the NBN said it was proposing to “de-meter” Sky Muster Plus (NBN’s premium satellite service) data for the majority of the day, with the off-peak period for unmetered data increasing to 16 hours (12 a.m. to 4 p.m.) per day, starting in the window. The current six-hour mark (1 a.m. to 7 a.m.).

“This is expected to be implemented from mid-2022,” the statement said.

Additionally, for the regular Sky Muster, the NBN aims to increase the average monthly data allowance to 55 gigabytes (GB), and increase to 90 gigabytes once the NBN appears. The fixed wireless network upgrade is completed in about two and a half years. “

Federal Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher speaks to reporters.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the additional funding was announced as part of plans to help Australia become a top 10 data and digital economy by 2030.(ABC News: Andrew O’Connor)

Telecommunications analyst Paul Budd said the funding was an “excellent development” but cautioned that throwing money at regional Internet problems was not enough.

“We need a much better map of black spots, exposed areas, and marginal areas of service footprints,” he said.

“Once we have such a map, we can relate to usage patterns in these areas and, as a result, target much better upgrades where they are needed.”