Does 4G Wireless Broadband Render the Fiber NBN Obolete?
Telstra CEO David Thodey has announced that Telstra will be rolling out 4G mobile broadband services in Australian capital cities and some regional centers before the end of 2011.
This should not come as too much of a surprise considering that 3G wireless has been readily available in the retail market since since 2004 and started becoming more affordable in 2007-08. The natural progression with all things technology is for an increase in speed and data. 4G is the logical next step.
This is also very surprising that Telstra is pushing to be the market leader in 4G services. With profits from fixed landline infrastructure in a free fall and Telstra set to become more of a retail player in fixed broadband with the roll out of the NBN, wireless is the one field where Telstra can stay ahead of the game.
Appropriately in Telstra lab testing the new 4G services have reached well over 100Mbps and in more realistic field testing around 24Mbps. This is a great increase over current usage times which often varies between 1Mbps and 7Mbps depending on the coverage strength, the network congestion and your 3G provider.
But any talk that 4G wireless broadband is going to render the NBN obsolete is nonsense. The data costs of mobile broadband are still prohibitively high for many people. With fixed line broadband deals now offering 1,000GB (1TB) of data for just over $ 100 per month, wireless looks decidedly stingy offering 10GB for about $ 50. Consumers and businesses are eating more and more data and until data prices reduce, wireless is not going to be a preferred substitute for many broadband users who have a choice between ADSL2 + and wireless.
The stability of wireless also needs to improve. Drop outs and fluctuations in speed are too unpredictable to make the service more than a "nice-to-have" for many people.
The NBN is already providing speeds up to 100Mbps through fiber broadband connections in Tasmania. This comes with 200GB of data for only $ 49.95 per month. Wireless simply can not compete with this – not even 4G.
In the future Fiber will be providing download speeds of 1Gbps and beyond. Fiber is the future of broadband infrastructure in the short and medium term.
But Wireless will continue to be the flexible choice of an internet connection for millions of Australians and an essential tool for many businesses. But it's not the right technology for national broadband infrastructure.