Mobile broadband no alternative to nbn

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Tuesday, 23 January, 2018

Mobile broadband no alternative to nbn

The admission from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that mobile broadband is no alternative to fixed services is a lesson for Australia and the nbn, according to telecoms expert Paul Budde.

With growing discontent about the state of the nbn, many people in the media and outside the telecoms industry are questioning if Australia needs an nbn and suggesting that mobile technologies such as 5G could be an alternative, Budde said in a blog post.

He noted that the argument has been made for some time, including by the prime minister while in opposition as shadow communications minister.

“So the issue understandably keeps popping up, especially with the disastrous developments surrounding the nbn.”

But developments in the US are putting the lie to this argument. After successfully lobbying the FCC to abolish net neutrality, the nation’s operators are now seeking to downgrade the definition of broadband in order to claim they have already fulfilled their broadband obligations, avoiding having to upgrade their fixed networks to fibre to the home.

Under their proposal, the minimum speed required to classify a service as broadband would be downgraded from 25 Mbps download and 4 Mbps upload to 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload.

Freed of the obligation to upgrade their fixed networks, the operators would be able to relegate high-speed broadband services above 25 Mbps to the mobile network in areas underserved by fibre. This would almost inevitably increase the cost of broadband services to end users.

The FCC under the Trump administration initially appeared receptive to the operators’ lobbying, Budde said. “However, fortunately, there was a push back last week with the FCC — be it reluctantly — stating that mobile broadband is not an alternative to fixed broadband and that they will not downgrade the current regulated broadband speed.”

Budde did note that mobile broadband is a great alternative for a number of people with only low to moderate broadband usage.

“This market is estimated to grow between 15–30% of the overall fixed broadband market,” he said.

“Furthermore, for several people with a very poor nbn connection there simply will not be any other option than to go with a more expensive mobile data connection.”

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