Some rural areas of the Northern Rivers have finally received broadband quality internet services following the installation of 4G ‘fixed wireless’ towers by NBN Co in recent months.
But larger communities including Ballina, Byron Bay, Tweed Heads and Lismore could be waiting years to see any dramatic improvement in their internet speeds.
On October 8 NBN announced construction was underway to connect 7,800 farms, homes and businesses via the controversial fixed wireless network in areas including: Alstonville, Billinudgel, Burringbar North, Chillingham, Dalwood, Dunbible, Goolmangar, Hayters Hill, Knockrow, McLeans Ridges, Murwillumbah Hill, Myocum, Meerchaum Vale, Nimbin, North Wardell, Newrybar, Rosebank, South Gunderimba, Tregeagle, Tuckombil, Tygalgah, Woodburn, Uki and Zara.
But what was missing from the media release was any information about when larger centres can expect an NBN connection.
Businesses across the region have been screaming for increased broadband speeds and have been waiting for Telstra to increase its number of ADSL2+ ports in exchanges around the region.
But while Telstra has slowly been rectifying its internet coverage, the change of government has forced NBN Co back to the drawing board.
‘Our instructions from the government are to provide download rates of 25 MB per second to all premises and at least 50 MB per second to 90% of fixed line premises as soon as possible,’ an NBN spokesperson said.
‘Every community is important but due to the nature and size of our country NBN is being rolled out in stages using a mix of technologies. The new NBN rollout model will deliver broadband using fibre to the premises (FTTP), fibre to the node (FTTN) and hybrid fibre coaxial cables (HFC) as well as fixed wireless and satellite,’ the spokesperson added.
As a result of the government’s changes, however, NBN has withdrawn its predicted roll-out times from its website, and says that only areas with an imminent roll-out will be included on its coverage map.
‘When the NBN comes to further parts of the Northern Rivers region including the centres of Ballina, Byron Bay, Lismore and Tweed Heads we will inform the communities and update the rollout maps on the NBN Co website,’ the spokesperson said.
This week NBN Co announced the first 140 suburbs set to receive fibre-to-the-node technology.
NBN says this is the next phase in a national trial to test the planning, design and construction of the FTTN technology promoted by telecommunications minister Malcolm Turnbull, which marries fibre-optic cables with Telstra’s copper lines in a street-side node cabinet to deliver faster broadband to homes and businesses.
‘The early experiences of consumers and businesses on our customer trials in Umina Beach, NSW, demonstrate that existing technologies are capable of playing a vital role in delivering the NBN quicker, more efficiently and more cost effectively for all Australians,’ the spokesperson said.
But there is still some distance to go to prove the new hybrid product.
‘There are around 50 end users on the customer trials who are currently experiencing average download speeds of up to 90 mbps and average upload speeds of up to 36 mbps,’ the spokesperson said.