No, 5G Won't Make The NBN Redundant

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As the NBN rollout slowly lurches on, data communications over cellular networks continue to bound along, seemingly overtaking the capability of the network that should be the centrepiece of our country's communications infrastructure. And there are plenty of people out there suggesting we won't need the NBN once 5G is widely deployed. But that's not quite how it will be.

It's true that cellular data comms have become faster and cheaper over the years. I remember paying $90 after accidentally leaving a 2G connection open overnight back in about 2001. Today, my mobile plan has more data than me and three of my kids can use in a month included in my plan.

Over the same time, we have moved from dial-up to ADSL and cable - thank goodness I've never had to deal with ADSL at home - and, soon I hope, I'll have something even faster.

The reality is fixed and wireless services are in an ongoing game of leap frog when it comes to speed. However, while wireless data costs have come down, they are still far higher than fixed broadband costs.

Looking at data published by Ookla, from people using their Speedtest app, we see that cellular comms in Australia are way faster than fixed connections. But, that data includes lots of people who are using ADSL-based technologies. As more people move to the NBN, even under the government's multi-technology mix strategy, that differential will narrow.

What we will see is people will use the connection technology that best suits their situation. When at home or in the office, a fixed connection makes more sense as the performance will be at least as good or better than cellular and it will cost a lot less. When they're mobile, a cellular connection makes sense as it's easier to access and people will, at least for the foreseeable future, be prepared to pay for the convenience of mobile data access.

When you're discussing our broadband situation with someone over the barbecue, bar or kitchen table, it's important to understand that not all technology is equal, even if it might look that way at a cursory glance.


    What a lot of people don't seem to realise is that any wireless connection still relies on a fixed line to do a lot of the work. You connect to your nearest tower wirelessly, but from that tower onwards it uses a fibre optic line to transport your data request to and from the source.

    Basically, anything wireless can deliver has to be able to be done by the FttP fixed line connections as well. If you cant get those speeds, its because the ISP's aren't offering it, not because the tech is redundant.

    To use 5G as the example, its apparently able to deliver 1 Gbps. Which is something FttP is already capable of, just not offered by many. And has to be able to for that 5G to deliver its speeds to the user.

    5G's reception will be patchy (at best) for many years yet. Add in the fact that the operators will charge very highly for access to it and it just won't make the nbn redundant. There may be a small set of low-data users for whom using 5G at their home/office fixed location makes financial sense, but it won't make sense for most people.

    5G's reception will be patchy (at best) for many years yet.

    As opposed to NBN which is "patchy" if you're lucky...

      Patchy 5G comes down to physics.
      Patchy NBN comes down to greed, laziness and political pressures.

      One is impossible to change, the other just needs the next evolution in technology.

    Thankyou for offering balance to the uninformed hype.

    Small criticism: not pointing out that wireless is a shared spectrum and can never maintain those speeds as density increases.

    For this reason, you could not offer a 5g mobile-only network in Inner Sydney, South Korea, or Singapore and match parity with what they have now.

    Indeed, it gets even worse than that because collision detection exponentially cripples the network, as does rain, fog, or an iron ore dust storm.

    What I personally find lacking in the discussion is that HFC would be 300mbit, and every capital would likely already have fttp/fttb where density supported it, had NBNCo not existed with its non-compete protections in place.

    Instead we have a media beatup that NBN is discriminating against poor people, as though there isn't a correlation between density and cost of housing.

      But one of the differences with 5G is that it will increasingly use "small cell" implementations. While there are advantages and disadvantages to this approach, it does allow a lot more capacity over the same spectrum because of the smaller area covered.

    The big issue would be contention ratios, how many connections can a 5g tower deliver, and how many before the speed suffers (my iinet seems to suffer a bit after 4pm with i presume kids getting home and firing up netflix), so what scales better 5g or fixed.

    Only uninformed simpletons and LNP shills proclaim that 5G is a viable alternative as a households main internet connection.

    because the NBN was redundant 10 years ago but anyway...

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