NBN Co announces fixed wireless upgrades and changes to Sky Muster Plus services

Melody Labinsky
By Melody Labinsky
March 23 2022 - 5:00am
Better Internet for Rural, Regional & Remote Australia has hailed the investment as "transformative" for regional internet services.

In a win for bush internet services, Sky Muster Plus users will soon have access to an additional 10 hours of off-peak unmetered data every day.

Users will be able to access off-peak unmetered data from 12am to 4pm, a sizeable upgrade from the current window of 1am to 7am, from mid-2022.

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NBN Co is also aiming to raise average monthly data allowances for regular Sky Muster users to 55 gigabytes, with a planned increase to 90GB once upgrades to the fixed wireless network are complete.

Advocacy group Better Internet for Rural, Regional & Remote Australia has hailed the investment as "transformative" for regional internet services.

BIRRR co-founder Kristy Sparrow said the changes were "exciting and much needed".

Ms Sparrow said Sky Muster Plus users would be able to freely use their connections for the majority of the day for everything they need to do online, for the very first time since Sky Muster was launched.

The change was announced on Tuesday alongside a federal government commitment of $480 million to upgrade the NBN fixed wireless network.

NBN Co has committed an additional $270m to the program designed to deliver faster wholesale speeds.

The funding will be used to 5G-enable NBN Co's network of more than 2200 fixed wireless infrastructure sites and more than 22,000 cells in semi-rural, regional and remote areas.

A switch to 5G technology is set to vastly extend the range, speed and capacity of the fixed wireless network and reduce latency.

The upgrade can be primarily delivered using NBN's existing network of towers.

This investment is set to expand NBN's fixed wireless footprint coverage by up to 50 per cent by extending the maximum range for some fixed wireless towers.

As a result, approximately 120,000 former satellite-only eligible premises will be able to access fixed wireless services.

Homes and businesses in the expanded footprint will be able to access wholesale tiers with potential maximum wholesale download speeds of 100 megabytes per second.

NBN Co is aiming for 85pc of customers in the expanded footprint to be able to access potential maximum wholesale download speeds of 250Mbps.

This would be up to three times faster than the highest wholesale speeds currently available on the fixed wireless network.

Typical wholesale busy period speeds of at least 50Mbps (download) are also forecast as a result of the upgrade.

Ms Sparrow said the investment should greatly improve bush broadband offerings.

She said the announcements were the result of eight years of volunteer advocacy to ensure regional Australians have access to affordable, reliable and adequate connectivity.

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"The upgrades within the $750m package will be transformative for regional Australians, ensuring they have access to broadband options that meet their needs now and into the future," Ms Sparrow said.

"Future-proofing connectivity in RRR areas by adopting and funding solutions that plan for future growth and investment in our regions will ensure that RRR regions are not disadvantaged due to their population and postcode."

NBN regional and remote chief development officer Gavin Williams said 5G would be core to enhancing and accelerating NBN's fixed wireless capability.

"Access to fast and reliable broadband plays a vital role in the lives of people across Australia and is critical for the nation's economy," Mr Williams said.

"This investment will also support the regional Australian economy with an additional $6.1 billion in regional gross domestic product over 2022 to 2026 financial years."

Mr Williams said the changes would make it easier for households to work remotely, access digital services, connect with loved ones and access entertainment.

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"For businesses, faster speeds will enhance and expand participation in the global digital economy and benefit from innovative technology such as the Internet of Things and smart farming," he said.

Detailed planning will commence soon. Once this is completed, NBN Co expects the rollout will take around two and a half years.

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Melody Labinsky

Melody Labinsky

National machinery and agtech writer

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