Wireless Technology Will Not Replace Fixed Line Technology

After reading multiple statements and articles criticizing both liberal and labors parties for rolling out fixed line technology as their main policy platform, I have decided to write this article from a technical standpoint not a political standpoint.

If we go to the basics of what users need from data we have two different standpoints, we have residential users and business users.

Residential users mostly require only a couple of things to be treated as a “proper connection” most residential users consider these requirements:

  • Data Caps
  • Speed
  • Latency
  • Reliability

The problem with wireless technology is you’re not going to get the best of any of those requirements.

Standard costs right now on a 4G network is sitting around ~$10/GB this means for a standard user buying 200GB / Month they would pay an astounding $2,000/Month. The reason why this cost is so high is because of the technical limitation of 4G technology which is its incredibly limited bandwidth per tower, the reason technologies like 5G/4G can reach “Up To 1Gbps” is because there is 1 user using it in lab conditions, the real world implementation of wireless technology is much more complicated most WISP (Wireless Internet Service Providers) can only provide connections to so many users around them because of the interference the wireless signal goes through, if the signal for example goes through a very big tree you can have your connection either disconnected or severely diminished.

The problem here is also with latency, wireless technology is limited in capability to be responsive, in lab conditions or conditions that are suited for wireless technology it will normally work but with existing evidence showing that nbn towers are oversubscribed the latency of the wireless technology will become an issue, most users who for example game will notice lag and jitter in their games, or people working from home who need to call via VOIP will not receive a reliable or usable phone connection as VoIP usually requires a latency of 50ms or less (as defined by cisco standards)

The statement that the liberal and labor parties are “stupid” for rolling out fixed line technology is inherently wrong from a networking and technical perspective, if we look at the other end of the road businesses will need to purchase upgrades from fixed-wireless to fixed-line technologies.

Business users require much more from their connection, they have more users in their network, they have a greater need for less latency and more reliability, they have an increased need for data. You can start to see the cracks forming in the statement.

We should not forget that fixed-wireless technologies are served by optical-fibre connections, this is because fibre is the only fixed-line technology that can carry upto and more then 10Gbps over its network, this means that most fixed-wireless and 4G/5G networks will rely on an extensive fibre backbone, it is true that some fixed-wireless providers use a “microwave link” that link is usually connected to fibre the microwave technology is used to bring the wireless signal to a fibre line which will take it the rest of the way.

In a more technical aspect if we consider the problems surrounding wireless technology such as, wireless limitations, spectrum depletion, fixed bandwidth availability & more.

We start to see the reason why 4G, 5G and Fixed-Wireless technology should NEVER. Be used as a national network. The cost of building so many towers to service 24.5 Million people would be astronomical, considering that the nbn would either have to consciously build only a certain number of towers per rollout area (thus underproviding the area) or increasing the amount each area would cost by building as many towers as needed in that particular area, the issue also arises that nbn would be rolling out more fibre then it currently is today only to be stopped and used to supply a wireless base station.

Existing operators would also have issues about the spectrums that nbn towers would use for transmission of data, the 4G/5G spectrum is severely limited and it is extremely costly to buy more spectrum.

It is in my technical opinion that the business case & technical case is not present for a fixed-wireless, 4G or 5G rollout, the business plan for 4G/5G/Fixed-Wireless has always been to rollout to area’s that do not have existing infrastructure capable of serving the area. This is measured as impact into the area, technologies like FTTP,FTTC,FTTB are less impacted by wireless technology the only Fixed Line technology that fixed wireless “competes” with is DSL and FTTN, even in these scenarios its costly for existing fixed wireless providers to ensure that A) business users are guaranteed their SLAs and that B) Residential Power users don’t affect the network

It’s a common practice in the wireless industry to shape users traffic this is because of the limited bandwidth available at peak times when everyone is using the towers if someone is using the full bandwidth the tower has available the two options that happen are either 1) The user is unaffected and will continue to use all/most of the bandwidth while other users are severely impacted or 2) The users traffic is shaped to lower speeds to ensure that the network remains usable for other people this is commonly referred to as a fair use agreement which dictates how much of the networks resources you can use.

Fixed line technology such as FTTP/FTTC/FTTB/HFC does not have this limitation, for example you do not have to worry about someone using too much of an FTTP network because FTTP has almost unlimited amount of bandwidth the idea of FTTP is to remove any bottlenecks in the user’s connection.

Businesses almost always will buy/pay for an upgrade from wireless networks to a fixed-line network because it’s the better option and in the long run will most likely benefit the connection.

A further explanation from a well written article over @ Crikey explains that:

“because fibre is a contained medium, you can use 100% of the available electromagnetic spectrum.

“In wireless, you’ve got to do a spectrum plan, where you carve up slices of the available spectrum, and only broadcast on the bits you’re allowed to broadcast on,” she said. The limited spectrum is shared by every customer who’s connected via the same cell tower. If fixed wireless becomes the main internet connection for every household, each customer ends up with only a small share of the total — unless you add more towers spaced more closely.”

What would that mean? “To get those 100 megabit speeds and beyond you’d need to be installing a base station around about on every suburban block,” she said. “At the end of every street there’d need to be a base station.”

Thanks for reading the article, if you have any questions or queries please contact me.

This article first appeared on the V1 nbn forum, it has been reposted here with permission of the author.

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