Thursday, 07 June 2012 16:37

NBN to cover regional and rural Australia sooner than you may think


Criticism from regional residents about NBN Co's rollout plans could be misplaced, as the fixed wireless and satellite services will be complete long before the fibre network.

It's frustrating if you live just outside one of NBN Co's 'phase one' fibre rollout areas, as you don't know whether work will start in your area shortly after the initial three-year plan ends, if you'll be one of the last areas to be connected (and after all, someone has to be last), or if you'll get fibre in between.

But it's not unusual to see people living in regional areas complaining that they're not on the map at all, and therefore they will have to wait longer than their metro cousins who (they say) are already getting at least reasonable broadband speeds via ADSL or cable.

What NBN Co hasn't exactly trumpeted is that its fixed wireless network will be complete by 2015 (ie, around the same time as phase one of the fibre network). And for those living in more remote areas, the long-term satellite system (which will provide 12Mbps compared with the interim 6Mbps currently available) should be in place the same year.

The fixed wireless rollout could be hampered by local councils rejecting plans for the erection of the necessary towers (one proposal has been knocked back by Victoria's Golden Plains Shire). Trent Williams, external affairs manager at NBN Co, said today that while there was little opposition to the plans, a small percentage of people can be very emotional and vocal about the issue.

"There's a lot of misunderstanding," so NBN Co starts by putting the facts in front of the public. Once that's done, "we aren't seeing a lot of objection to what we do," he said.

And if you consider the regional areas that will be served by fibre, Elizabeth O'Shea, assistant secretary at the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy's NBN stakeholder and public engagement branch, pointed out today that 43% of the premises in those areas are covered by the initial three-year rollout, compared with 28% of those in metro areas.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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