Merimbula sidelined in the NBN rollout

Tony Gibbs, spokesman for the NBN has confirmed that there is no timetable for the arrival of the NBN in Merimbula. However smaller villages, such as Wolumla and Candelo, and the surrounds of Merimbula could see the arrival of the NBN network by the end of 2015.

Bush basics: NBN spokesman, Tony Gibbs with equipment for the local NBN service.

Bush basics: NBN spokesman, Tony Gibbs with equipment for the local NBN service.

Mr Gibbs said that the delivery plan was being driven by the federal government which was keen to see the communities with the poorest technology, served first.

While Merimbula CBD might ultimately be a candidate for fibre to the node (FTTN) “there was no timetable for Merimbula”. The town is seen as being better placed than many outlying areas because ADSL 2 and 4G (mobile) services are available, and therefore is not classed as being in dire need.

But before anyone gets over-excited about the prospect of optical fibre cable rolling down the main street of Candelo or Wolumla, it should be explained that small villages will receive a different version of the NBN, fixed wireless.

Fixed wireless requires a line of sight connection from a tower. Asked whether fixed wireless would be better than current ADSL services, Mr Gibbs explained: “It is similar to 4G but can deliver a more consistent service offering up to 25Mb/s download speed. It uses the 2.3GHz spectrum which is great for delivering broadband services. Fixed wireless is definitely an improvement on ADSL 2; these speeds are not available currently.”

He said that NBN technical staff were currently going through the process of identifying sites, looking to see where towers could be co-located with existing antenna arrays. However it could be the end of next year before the first services went live.

Users would be connected via a fixed antenna on their homes feeding into their computers. The service wouldn’t be subject to the same pressures as the mobile network because users would be fixed subscribers and so an influx of visitors would not have the same effect as say, the arrival of holidaymakers at Christmas on Merimbula’s mobile service.

The fixed wireless service will be constructed by the NBN but end users will buy a package from a retailer in much the same way as they currently do for internet services.

Fixed wireless services will be delivered to premises within a 3-5 km radius of the tower, depending on geography but, and here’s the rub, the economics dictate that there should be “more than 100 premises covered by one base station,” according to Mr Gibb. This might leave residents small hamlets wondering whether they will ever see anything faster than dial up services.

Telstra is obviously waiting to see what the NBN plans are before doing any more work to upgrade ports in local telephone exchanges which is how ADSL services are supplied. In places such as Nethercote newcomers must wait for someone to move in order to get an ADSL 1 port, or hang out of a window with a large antenna in order to get more than two bars of mobile service.

Mr Gibbs said: “The NBN will be provided via satellite for the harder to access areas.” However it may be some time before the NBN has sufficient capacity in a communications satellite to service all the rural customers in Australia who are not part of a 100-premise fixed wireless network.

Around the middle of this year another 9000 slots will become available on satellite services. Anyone who can’t access broadband via a 3G dongle and only have access to dial up or ADSL 1 speeds, can apply for a satellite connection but there are conditions to be met, Mr Gibbs said.

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