Assignments at almost a thousand fixed wireless sites have disappeared after 2.3 GHz licence renewal in July last year.
The company responsible for building the National Broadband Network, nbn, has apparently failed to renew its radio assignments for the majority of existing fixed wireless towers.
Despite having around 1,200 fixed wireless towers active around Australia, the company’s radio assignment records contains only around 200 radio sites with the 2.3 GHz radio frequency assigned.
nbn uses the 2.3 GHz radio frequency to service areas in outer metropolitan fringes using TD-LTE 4G technology. However, since its licence renewal in July last year, the radio assignments in the majority of its existing fixed wireless towers have disappeared from the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA’s) Register of Radiocommunications Licences.
Contacting ACMA about this issue, the authority revealed that “it appears [nbn’s] devices on this site have not been renewed” after July and that they were “checking with NBN to find out what has happened”.
Dirt-cheap printers, sky-high ink costs. Australia’s prepaid mobile broadband market is replicating the printer industry’s business model.
When you compare monthly mobile broadband plans with the starter kits you can get at your local supermarket or technology store, you would find an unfortunate truth. Starter kits, often including a Wi-Fi 3G modem, are comparatively cheaper than your monthly access cost.
Last month, I saw an excellent deal. I bought two Vodafone 3G Pocket Wi-Fi + 3GB SIM (with a bonus 8GB SIM with 90 day expiry) for a mere $38 from Harvey Norman. That’s 22GB over a total of 240 days.
Compare that with the closest prepaid plan in terms of cost: the $40 Vodafone Mobile Broadband recharge — which will only give me 4.5GB over 40 days.
The 22GB offer Vodafone currently provides online is $200, albeit with an expiry of 365 days. That’s a whopping 5x more expensive!
Cost per GB
2 × Vodafone 3G Pocket Wi-Fi + 3GB (+ bonus 8GB)
1 × Vodafone $40 MBB Recharge
1 × Vodafone $200 MBB Recharge
We haven’t even accounted for the cost of the Wi-Fi modem that comes with the starter pack. A Huawei-made Vodafone Pocket WiFi R207.
This is perhaps one of the most extreme cost differential examples — however, this same phenomenon is replicated across all major carriers. Telstra and Optus both have the same tactic of selling mobile broadband dongles for below-cost and bundled with a generous one-off data bonus. Sounds awfully like a printer company, am I right?
What’s the catch?
The business model that the major carriers are using promotes the mass purchase of SIM cards and mobile broadband devices. What’s the problem?
Firstly, Australia is fast running out of mobile phone numbers with the ACMA projecting phone numbers will be exhausted in 2017. If each person in Australia simply buys new SIM cards with new phone numbers to take advantage of these deals, the depletion of mobile phone numbers further accelerate. Luckily, the 05xx number range has been reserved for future expansion — nonetheless, getting new numbers for each new SIM purchased is unsustainable.
Secondly, it’s an account management nightmare. Each new SIM would need a new account login on the mobile carrier’s website to check and keep track of data usage. It would be a pain to have to change this every month. Also, Australian’s are expected to declare how many phone services they have active under their name — this could be massive if we end up buying new SIMs every month.
Lastly, we have the same environmental issues as printers — we’ll end up with far more mobile Wi-Fi modems that we’d possibly need. Personally, I’m currently in posession of 5 mobile broadband modems while I’ve been taking advantage of these deals — three Telstra modems and two Vodafones. Most of these — I don’t use and to be honest, I’d be happy to give away. It just goes to show how much waste there is in electronics these days.
And the printer…
Yes. I also bought a printer. Harvey Norman was also selling a multi-function inkjet printer for $17 that I couldn’t resist but buy.
The printer even has clicky buttons, an LCD screen, fax functionality and a document-feeder scanner.
I’m yet to use any of its ink, I bought it purely for its document-feeder scanner to move towards a paper-less environment. I think I have broken their business model.
Earlier, ZDNet reported that the antenna design for the 3.5GHz network will be similar to a “baseball mit”:
“that the antennas installed on top of the premises as part of the trial were designed similar to a “baseball mitt” in that although the 3.5GHz beam is relatively narrow, the capture of it on the antenna was wide to ensure that line to sight between the NBN Co tower and the premises’ antenna was maintained.”
However, the Department of Defense had raised concerns that utilising the 3.5GHz spectrum may interfere with radar capabilities.
While the actual assigned spectrum is 3.56GHz, the assignments were issued under nbn™’s existing 3.4GHz license which it acquired from the now defunct Austar satellite TV company. A full list of ACMA assignments can be found here.
NBN Co has commenced testing the 3.5GHz spectrum slated for use in NBN Co’s fixed wireless network in outer metro areas. NBN Co’s current Fixed Wireless network uses the 2.3GHz spectrum in regional areas after acquiring the spectrum from former satellite TV provider Austar. However, it lacked the 2.3GHz spectrum license in metro areas.
According to the ACMA license database, there were 41 “Scientific Assigned” licenses issued in the 3.5GHz spectrum range in December 2014. These licenses were assigned onto NBN Co “Test Trailer” that are located in the outer suburbs of Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne, where the test equipment resides: