NBN Fixed Wireless: Everything you need to know

01 August 2017

Fixed Wireless technology is being used to connect rural Australians to the National Broadband Network.

What is Fixed Wireless?

A Fixed Wireless National Broadband Network connection uses a combination of ground stations and 4G radio signals to deliver internet access to homes and businesses in rural areas.

In areas where Fixed Wireless is being deployed, NBN builds ground stations that broadcast a 4G signal, similar to that used by smartphones, which is then picked up by an outdoor antenna on your house. In order to work, Fixed Wireless requires line of sight.

NBN limits the distance between a ground station and a house to 14km, but in some instances, ground stations have a radius smaller than 6km.

Because of Fixed Wireless' line of sight and distance requirements, NBN will perform pre-install signal testing to ensure you can actually get a decent connection. It's worth noting that trees, and metal objects such as colourbond roofs and steel sheds can often degrade Fixed Wireless signal.

Who is getting Fixed Wireless?

Up to 6% premises will be connected to the National Broadband Network via Fixed Wireless, which could end up being as many as 720,000 households and businesses.

NBN says Fixed Wireless is being deployed to Australians outside the reach of the Fixed Line network, typically on the outskirts of major cities or in small communities in rural areas (but not as remote as those who'll connect to the network via satellite).

What equipment do I need for a Fixed Wireless connection?

In order to connect to the National Broadband Network via Fixed Wireless, an Outdoor Antenna will need to be attached to the outside of your home. This will typically be installed on the eaves of your roof or on the roof itself. A small hole may need to be drilled in the external wall to allow the cable the cable connecting the Antenna to be passed inside your home. This will connect to an NBN Connection Box, which will connect to a router and to a 240V power outlet.

NBN facilitates this installation at no additional cost other than any setup fees your internet plan my attract. If you're renting, you'll need to get your landlords approval before installing the Outdoor Antenna.

If you sign up for a 24-month internet contract, your telco will almost certainly include an NBN compatible router with your plan.

Customers connecting to the National Broadband Network via Fixed Wireless will not have the copper network at their premises disconnected. As such, you can continue to use your traditional phone line. 

How fast is Fixed Wireless?

NBN says customers connected to the National Broadband Network via Fixed Wireless will be able to download speed as fast as 50Mbps, and upload speeds up to 20Mbps. NBN's typical high-end 100Mbps down, 40Mbps up tier isn't currently available to Fixed Wireless customers, but will be added in early 2018. 

Your maximum theoretical speeds will be determined by the type of connection you pay for. A basic NBN connection will provide speeds of up to 12Mbps. The next step up is 25Mbps, followed by 50Mbps.

Obstacles (such as trees, and metal objects such as colourbond roofs and steel sheds), your provider, and congestion during peak hours can however mean you won't always achieve the top speed attainable on the tier.

How much does Fixed Wireless cost?

While not all providers will necessarily offer Fixed Wireless services, pricing is typically in line with other NBN plans. For example, if you're looking at a Telstra NBN plan, it will cost the same regardless of whether you're connected through a Fixed Wireless or Fixed Line connection.

What is the difference between Fixed Wireless and Satellite?

Fixed Wireless uses transmission towers and line of sight antennas to deliver internet in a maximum radius of 14km. Satellite relies on, well, satellites to deliver internet, and could potentially be connecting properties thousands of kilometres apart.
Fixed Wireless is also able to achieve faster speeds than satellite.

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