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Faster more reliable, could this be the NBN killer?

THE NBN is already obsolete and the rise of new technologies will see many abandon the slow and unreliable network, an expert says.

Next year a new 5G network will be tested during the Commonwealth Games being held on the Gold Coast and, if successful, could be a gamechanger for fast broadband in Australia.

Associate Professor Mark Gregory of RMIT University said the introduction of ultrafast mobile broadband would change people's views about mobile internet.

"The idea has always been that a fixed connection will always have more capacity and higher speed," Prof Gregory told news.com.au.

"But because of the Prime Minister's decision to roll out obsolete technology, we will see a flip flop and the mobile option will become the better option, with better speeds and more reliability than the NBN connection," he said.

The NBN has been plagued with complaints about slow speeds, drop outs and drawn-out installation issues.

A news.com.au Facebook poll on Monday highlighted the discontent among those who have been connected with 1194 indicating they were unhappy with the service and just 263 satisfied with it.

Many of the comments complained about how slow it was and some even said their ADSL service had been better and faster.

 

Many NBN customers will be limited to a maximum speed of 25 megabits per second if they are connected via Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) and their homes are located more than 400m away from the cabinet where fibre optic cables link to the copper wires running into homes.

For these customers in particular, mobile broadband will become very attractive.

Prof Gregory said some mobile broadband plans already offered speeds that were much faster than 25Mbps.

Telstra is already offering a boosted 4G service that it calls 4GX.

"It depends on how many people are using the local mobile tower but speeds over 100Mbps are quite achievable," Prof Gregory said.

If 5G trials are successful, he expects this service to offers speeds up to 1 gigabit per second - which is on par with the maximum the NBN can achieve.

Another gamechanging factor has been the emergence of huge data plans that allow mobile users to download a lot of content at a cheap price.

OVO Mobile is offering a 100GB data plan for just $70 a month, which makes using mobile for internet even more viable.

"100GB plans are a gamechanger for capacity over the mobile network," Prof Gregory said.

"We are starting to see all companies increasing data that users can get per month and as that grows, it's going to make a significant difference.

"For many people they are going to start seriously looking at mobile (internet) rather than the NBN, particularly if they are getting a very poor service over NBN."

Akamai's 2017 State of the Internet report showed mobile broadband in Australia is already 41 per cent faster on average compared with fixed broadband, and is improving almost twice as fast.

Optus demonstrates its 4.5G cellular network transferring data at more than 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps).
Optus demonstrates its 4.5G cellular network transferring data at more than 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps).

If the trials are successful, 5G could start being rolled out in 2020, the year the NBN is expected to be completed.

Prof Gregory believes the Federal Government will eventually have to make changes to keep up with mobile technology.

"We can't continue with this approach now," he said. "The multi-technology approach of NBN was always flawed and now we're seeing why. We have effectively wasted $30 billion learning that it's flawed."

Prof Gregory said the NBN was not "future proof".

"The technology is well and truly obsolete," he said. "It has been obsolete since the NBN started. Labor made the right decision to roll out fibre (to the premises). There were other issues but those issues should have been worked through."

NBN chief Bill Morrow has already acknowledged that mobile broadband presents a risk to the network and NBN may struggle to compete with ultrafast mobile networks, which may stop it from turning a profit.

There was speculation a levy could be introduced to help pay for the NBN but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Monday his government had no plans to impose a levy or penalty on people who connect to the internet using mobile data connections, rather than the fixed line network.

HOW MOBILE BROADBAND WORKS

While most consumers think of technology delivered through mobile phone towers like 3G and 4G as mostly for making phone calls and limited internet use, 5G could change this.

If it is approved, 5G will gradually be rolled out around the country from 2020 and will offer 50 times the bandwidth available on 4G networks.

People will likely have to upgrade their mobile handsets to be able to use it but, unlike previous upgrades, experts believe 5G's appeal won't be limited to mobile phone users.

Households will be able to buy a modem that uses a SIM card to provide ultrafast internet via mobile phone towers, instead of connecting through a home phone line or optical fibre.

Could internet delivered through mobile broadband networks be better than the NBN? Picture: Chris McCormack.
Could internet delivered through mobile broadband networks be better than the NBN? Picture: Chris McCormack.

ANY DOWNSIDES?

Speed will be impacted by the number of users on the network so a stable 1 Gbps service is not guaranteed. However, it would still likely be faster than the 25Mbps many will be limited to on the NBN.

Like many other mobile services, there are still question marks over any health impacts.

International radio frequency expert Professor Dariusz Leszczynski, from the University of Helsinki, gave a public lecture at Griffith University in Brisbane in August where he warned there was a concerning lack of understanding about the health impacts, the ABC reported.

"We know only that this radiation penetrates skin deep," Professor Leszczynski said.

"We don't have the faintest idea how normal-functioning skin will be affected."

Email: charis.chang@news.com.au | Twitter: @charischang2

Topics:  australia editors picks mobile internet


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