Australia’s NBN aggregates 11 carriers to deliver gigabit wireless

Australia’s state-owned wholesale broaband provider, NBN, has outdone even the country’s innovative incumbent, Telstra, on the carrier aggregation front. It has aggregated a total of 11 carriers to deliver 1.1Gbps downlink speeds, without even having to wait for 5G.

Broadband providers are showing strong interest in 5G-based fixed wireless, especially if they have large rural areas to penetrate, or – like Verizon – have a limited fiber footprint. 5G may enable them to break out of the constraints of previous broadband wireless access technologies – very much a last resort for the underserved – and offer a user experience which is comparable to that of fiber (though of course, fiber technology is advancing too, and fiber-to-the-home is becoming more feasible even in developing economies).

For NBN, rural coverage is part of its remit and it is using wireless where wireline technologies are too difficult or expensive to deploy profitably. Rather than turning to millimeter wave spectrum like its fixed wireless triallists in the US, it is using two sub-6 GHz bands which are, however, under-occupied in Australia – 3.4 GHz and 2.3 GHz. For its latest test, in Ballarat, Victoria, it combined seven carriers in the 3.4 GHz band and four in the 2.3 GHz band, achieving 1.1Gbps peak downlink speeds and 165Mbps on the uplink.

The trial was conducted in partnership with Ericsson, Netcomm Wireless and Qualcomm. NBN plans to launch a 100Mbps fixed wireless service next year, initially targeting rural and regional businesses.

“The company continues to demonstrate its focus on providing technology to meet today’s demands while ensuring a strong path of development and upgrades to meet Australia’s future data demands,” NBN said in a statement. “The success of its ultrafast fixed wireless demonstration underlines the company’s ability to launch even faster services on the NBN fixed wireless network.”