Wide Bay gets major funding boost for NBN fixed wireless services

More than 26,000 households and businesses in Wide Bay will benefit from improvements to the NBN network, following a $480 million investment by the Morrison Government in the 2022-23 Federal Budget.

Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said the investment in NBN Co’s non‑commercial fixed wireless network will significantly improve the quality of services being provided over the NBN fixed wireless and satellite networks.

“By using the latest 4G and 5G wireless technology, this upgrade will extend the coverage range from a tower, and allow higher-speed services to everyone served by the tower,” said Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP.

“This means more people can be served by NBN fixed wireless; it means higher speed services on the NBN fixed wireless network, and it means higher amounts of data can be used by households and business customers. The upgrade will expand the fixed wireless footprint coverage by up to 50 per cent, enabling 120,000 additional premises to access fixed wireless services instead of Sky Muster satellite services,” Minister Fletcher said.

This upgrade will see NBN offer new higher-speed services to the fixed wireless network: 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) to all 750,000 premises able to access the new, expanded coverage footprint, and a 250 Mbps service will be available to 85 per cent of premises.

It also means much higher actual speeds during the “network busy hour” – the time of day when the network is most heavily used, typically around 8:00 pm at night. The network design metric for the busy hour today is 6 Mbps; this will rise sharply following the upgrade, to 50 Mbps. This means customers will benefit even if they do not order a higher speed plan, as they will experience a sharp increase in the actual speed of their current plan.

This upgrade also means big benefits for NBN satellite users. Because some existing NBN satellite customers will move to fixed wireless, this will free up capacity on the satellite network.

As a result, NBN Co will be able to offer an almost immediate increase in average data allowances for NBN Sky Muster satellite users. Average monthly data allowances for standard Sky Muster plans will increase to 55 Gigabytes (GB) in the short term, increasing to 90GB once the fixed wireless upgrade is complete in around two years’ time.

Federal Member for Wide Bay and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Llew O’Brien welcomed the investment which will improve internet accessibility for 19,747 Fixed Wireless and 6,298 satellite-connected premises in Wide Bay.

“These upgrades will improve signal strength and extend the range of fixed wireless services, so some premises that have previously only been able to access satellite internet may be able to connect to Fixed Wireless when the rollout is complete, and those who remain on satellite service will also have improved connectivity,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Having access to reliable internet connections is important in every community, and it’s absolutely critical during natural disasters such as the floods that we have just seen that devastated parts of Wide Bay and left several communities without telecommunications for extended periods.

“While this investment is a welcome announcement, there is still significant work to be done in improving telecommunications in Wide Bay and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Canberra to ensure that people and businesses in all Wide Bay communities have weather-proof, reliable internet and telephone services.”

Minister for Regionalisation, Regional Communications and Regional Education, Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, said the investment would drive major improvements to regional telecommunications quality, helping to bridge the digital divide many Australian communities often face.

“The NBN is a critical and core part of our national infrastructure and economy, enabling employment, connecting families, and supporting business, including in the electorate of Wide Bay,” Minister McKenzie said.

“This investment provides a comprehensive response to Recommendation 6 of the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review, and is one part of a suite of measures we will announce as part of the Government’s response to the Review in coming weeks.”

Minister for Finance Simon Birmingham said this $480 million funding boost in major network upgrades would significantly improve services to customers, particularly those in regional areas.

“This is another important investment in the NBN that will deliver better and faster internet to Australian households and businesses across the fixed wireless network,” Minister Birmingham said.

“The NBN has been there to support Australians throughout the pandemic. Our Government will continue to make critical investments in the NBN that will enhance the internet experience for households and businesses right now and into the future.

“With faster internet and more data available, these improved services will directly benefit premises already using NBN fixed wireless and satellite services, and particularly the approximately 50,000 regional businesses with active fixed wireless services, including many in the Wide Bay region, producing extensive economic opportunities.”

NBN Co will commence work on detailed design for the upgrade as soon as the grant agreement is in place. The majority of the upgrade works will take place during 2023 and the first half of 2024, and is expected to be completed in around two and a half years.

The 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review was chaired by the Hon Luke Hartsuyker with four other committee members: Ms Sue Middleton; Ms Kristy Sparrow; Professor Hugh Bradlow; and Mr Michael Cosgrave.

The Committee’s report, titled Step Change in Demand, was presented to the Australian Government in December 2021 and tabled in parliament on 14 February 2022.

For more detail on the Hartsuyker Review and the Committee’s report, a Step Change in Demand, visit https://www.rtirc.gov.au/

For more detail on NBN Co’s fixed wireless network, visit https://www.nbnco.com.au/learn/network-technology/fixed-wireless-explained