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Thursday, 10 March 2011 12:46

40% prefer 4G wireless broadband to fibre poll equals NBN financial headache


A poll purporting to show that 4G wireless broadband will not threaten the business case of the FttH National Broadband Network (NBN) appears to show the exact opposite. According to the Compare Broadband poll, 40% of respondents to the small online poll say they would prefer to use 4G wireless to the NBN in the future, which if true would put a severe dent in the NBN business case.

The business case for the NBN as outlined by NBN Co and the Federal Government is based on a 70% take-up of premises that have access to the fibre network. However, recent reports by analysts from Ovum, Gartner and others continue to show that large screen wireless broadband connections in exclusively wireless house-holds continue to grow rapidly.

Broadband comparison website Compare Broadband asked visitors 'Does wireless 4G technology pose a threat to the NBN?'

Out of 325 total votes, 59% said 'No, Australia needs both technologies,' while 40% said 'Yes, I would prefer to use wireless 4G in the future'.

The way this was spun in a subsequent release of the poll results by the site was:

"The faster broadband speeds offered by wireless 4G networks do not pose a threat to the National Broadband Network (NBN) as both technologies are needed."

However, if 40% of broadband users were exclusively 4G wireless, this would be a disaster for the NBN - NBN Co and the Government maintain that the percentage of exclusively wireless users will only be in the low teens at best.

Telstra announced in February that it will begin rolling out its LTE 4G mobile network using the 1800MHz spectrum before the end of 2011. The dominant telco has also noted that rolling out LTE will ease the pressure on its already popular existing 3G HSPA+ network, which is once again being upgraded from a theoretical maximum of 42Mbps to 84Mbps.

Telstra's plan is to allow LTE users to roam freely between the two networks.

NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley is on the record as saying wireless 4G is no threat to the NBN because "the two technologies complement each other". Mr Quigley and others also point out that LTE towers will need to be connected by fibre.

However, the issue for NBN opponents is not whether fibre is needed for the heavy duty data communications work but whether it is needed to go past the homes of 93% of the population.

The issue for NBN proponents is not whether a clear majority want NBN fibre to their homes but whether they can sell NBN access to at least 70% of the population. If 40% of broadband users feel that going exclusively wireless suits their needs, then the NBN Co would have a big financial headache.


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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.



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