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NBN taps Nokia for mmWave upgrade

Australia network

Australia’s state-owned wholesaler NBN has picked Nokia to supply long-range mmWave equipment for its fixed-wireless access (FWA) upgrade.

As part of a $750 million programme launched back in March, NBN is extending FWA coverage to a further 120,000 premises, and upgrading the network to 5G to increase maximum wholesale connection speed to up 250 Mbps for as much as 85 percent of its FWA footprint.

Using mmWave spectrum promises a considerable improvement in capacity, but at the cost of signal propagation. To compensate for this, Nokia on Tuesday said it has won a contract with NBN to provide a customer premises equipment (CPE) solution that incorporates a high gain antenna that can connect to mmWave at greater distances.

The solution comprises a roof-mounted transmitter and receiver connected to an indoor hub via power over Ethernet. The Finnish vendor claims the Long Reach technology used in its antenna can achieve Gigabit speeds for premises within 7 kilometres of a base station. The solution also supports sub-6-GHz spectrum for those customers living beyond mmWave range.

“Using mmWave over long distances has been very challenging due to high signal attenuation,” said Shiv Putcha, founder and principal analyst at Mandala Insights, in a statement published by Nokia. “Nokia’s high gain Long Reach technology is an important innovation as it compensates for this attenuation, and minimises possible satellite interference, offering a balance of throughput and total cost of ownership.”

When the dust settles on its FWA upgrade, NBN will have installed 5G on some 2,200 towers and extended their range, expanding its footprint by 50 percent. It means that 120,000 premises that until now have had to rely on satellite broadband will fall within reach of NBN’s FWA network.

“We are facing a step-change in demand for broadband in rural and regional areas, with an estimated 300 percent increase in demand for data on our fixed wireless network over the next 10 years. Nokia’s 5G mmWave solution allows NBN to better utilise both our sub-6-GHz and 5G mmWave spectrum allocations to vastly extend the range, speed and capacity of our existing fixed wireless network and improve the end user’s experience,” said Jason Ashton, executive general manager, fixed wireless and satellite at NBN, in a statement on Tuesday.

“This innovative antenna design will be a critical enabler for our fixed-wireless upgrade programme, and the long-standing relationship we have with Nokia is helping us to deliver on our commitment to continually enhance customer experience and evolve the fixed-wireless network for future needs,” he added.

In parallel with its FWA upgrade, NBN is also pushing on with extending the reach of its FTTP network. In a separate announcement on Tuesday, the company identified a further 300,000 premises currently served by its fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) that will be eligible to upgrade to FTTP by the end of next year. So far, NBN has identified 2 million premises that will be added to its full fibre footprint over the next 12 months; it aims to make FTTP available to 8 million premises in total.

“In addition to the inherent speed benefits offered by fibre-to-the-premises, these full fibre connections significantly reduce the number of copper connections in our network. Fibre is inherently more capable of delivering faster upload and download speeds, is generally more reliable than copper connections and reduces our maintenance and operating costs,” said NBN COO Kathrine Dyer.

“We are on track to achieve our goal of enabling around 8 million premises, or up to 75 percent of homes and businesses on the fixed line network, to access NBN’s highest residential speed tiers with wholesale download speeds of 500 Mbps to close to 1 Gbps by the end of 2023,” she said.

 

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