What is ‘Fixed Wireless Broadband’ and how does it work?
Fixed wireless broadband is a service sold by phone companies which lets you connect your devices in the home, usually a laptop, tablet or phone, to their cellular network, using a WiFi signal. Users of the service then receive high speed data access for connected devices through the phone company’s mobile data network.
To generate the WiFi signal that will connect your home’s devices to the internet, you’ll need a WiFi Router. These devices can cost $150-$250 (and sometimes more depending on the phone company providing the service). If you sign up for a 2-year contract with the phone company, they may provide the WiFi router to you for ‘free’.
Fixed wireless broadband differs from standard ADSL or NBN internet connections, in that it doesn’t require a telephone line or connection via wires/cables. It allows for connection to the internet remotely using a modem that connects to your computers – or computers – using radio waves.
All wireless broadband solutions give you some flexibility in where you use them. Since they work on mobile cellular networks, you are able to take the internet with you, when you travel or when you move house, without requiring a technician to reinstall your service.
Why would I bother changing my current (fixed) broadband connection to a Fixed Wireless connection?
Fixed wireless services have a couple of important benefits over traditional broadband internet services:
- No-setup cost or time investment required: Which means you will not have set-up costs or delays, normally associated with setting up a new internet service. You will be aware that the NBN has suffered complaints about how long this aspect of their process has taken. As a result, fixed wireless broadband solutions can be extremely beneficial, if you are somebody who moves home or office often, such as students or business people.
- Portability: If you travel frequently and would like to take your internet service with you on your travels, and potentially avoid exorbitant internet fees charged by hotels, Fixed Wireless Broadband can mean you simply have a more reliable internet connection when you are away from your home.
What is the difference between mobile broadband and Fixed Wireless Broadband?
Wireless broadband differs from mobile broadband, although some Telcos use the terms “mobile broadband” and “wireless broadband” interchangeably.
What differentiates ‘True’ Fixed Wireless Broadband as a service is the wireless router which provides the ‘Fixed’ aspect of the service. Generally, dollar for dollar, you’ll get more GB of mobile data than you would if you used an alternative method of receiving mobile broadband – for example, tethering.
Fixed Wireless Broadband solutions tend to be used more so in one location – like at home, for people who do not need to take it on the road with them on a daily basis.
Is there a cost advantage to moving to Fixed Wireless Broadband rather than accepting ADSL or an NBN connection?
Short answer – No. Currently, data via a fixed wireless connection is a little more expensive than both ADSL and NBN.
As the technology improves, however, prices are set to fall and, in the very near future, to be more comparable on a $/GB level than is the case now.
Optus has announced their proposed 5G fixed home wireless plans, and have stated that they will be similarly priced as their conventional broadband services.
What is a ‘Dongle’?
There are 3 ways you can receive an internet connection over a cellular wireless network.
- Tethering: That’s using your phone as the wireless modem. This is fine for business people and single people because it is a little harder to share the connection than the other 2 solutions available.
- ‘A Dongle’: This is a USB modem which you insert into your laptop and which then acts as the router to the mobile internet.
- Fixed Wireless Broadband: Fixed Wireless Broadband solutions involve a dedicated piece of hardware called a Fixed Wireless Broadband Router. This router is attached to mains power through an adapter (that’s the fixed bit) and provides a local WiFi signal that might well reach across your entire house.
What is QOS (Quality Of Service) and what does that mean to my Fixed Wireless Broadband connection?
QOS or Quality Of Service is a way of describing some of the things phone companies can do to guarantee data delivery speeds over their network. To you, QOS means guaranteed network speeds.
QOS is a feature of 5G networks – they’re the technology which is used to guarantee speeds – for example if a phone company says a plan will give you ‘at least 20 mbps’.
QOS involves telcos assigning network resources to individuals in a fixed way – avoiding the sharing of a tower’s transmission capabilities which can slow your connection down.
Can You Buy Home Wireless Broadband products?
While 4G home wireless broadband has been available for a little while, 5G products are not yet available.
Telstra and Optus and Vodafone have all now announced 5G mobile broadband plans on their 5G networks.
When will 5G Fixed Wireless Internet be available?
Optus has announced their plans to start selling fixed wireless broadband plans for the home from early 2019.
Telstra will be watching this space closely and are expected to begin to offer plans this year as well. However, they have not publicly stated when in 2019 that was likely to happen. Vodafone said they will not be offering fixed home wireless broadband plans this year but will begin in 2020.
Will 5G Fixed Wireless Broadband be available in my Area?
5G coverage will be limited for the next couple of years, while Telcos are busy working away, building their 5G networks. Optus has released a list of suburbs (below) that will be covered by 5G, the list is expected to grow rapidly in 2019 and beyond.
Is 5G Fixed Home Wireless Broadband right for me?
Currently, there is a small premium to pay for the mobility aspect of Fixed Wireless Broadband plans.
However, if you rent or move around a lot, or if you live in shared accommodation and just want to have your own internet service without having to share it with housemates, home wireless internet may be something you are prepared to spend a little extra on.
What providers will be offering 5G Fixed Home Wireless Broadband internet?
Optus and Telstra will be the first to offer 5G fixed home wireless internet as of this year.
Vodafone have said they will be rolling out their 5G network next year.
MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), or smaller Telcos will be sure to want their slice of the action as this technology becomes more widely adopted, and we can expect to see a plethora of the smaller service providers offering wireless broadband plans to consumers soon as well.
What does ADSL mean and how is this related to the NBN?
ADSL stands for Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line. It’s the technology behind most modern day fixed broadband connections which are in place now. It’s also the technology used to deliver most NBN connections.
ADSL connections are simply copper wires, previously used for phone calls, which are now used to transmit data.
- 4G is the current standard for fixed broadband, although 5G fixed wireless plans are also available
- All plans shown on this page are 4G for now
- Portable, making it easy to take your broadband with you for Internet access on the go.
- No complicated setups and setup fees -- simply plug and use for immediate access.
- Strong signals and fast speeds on 4G and 5G networks.
- Becoming more affordable as prices continue to drop
- Uncertainty regarding 5G connectivity -- too early to tell when and where networks will be available
Are you looking for an alternative to the two major fixed-line broadband options – the NBN (National Broadband Network) or ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line)? Would you, prefer your home broadband connection was more portable? If your answer to either of these questions is yes, then you might be in the market for a Fixed Wireless Broadband connection.
Fixed Wireless Broadband solutions use the same data delivery technology as any other mobile data service delivered by the phone companies. The same data speeds and coverage is available for these Mobile Broadband services as is provided to your phone when you use mobile data on it.
What sets a Fixed Wireless Broadband service apart from true mobile alternatives (for example, dongles) is the fact that Fixed Wireless Broadband solutions use a router (a way of connecting your home to the cellular internet) which is plugged into mains power. With a home Fixed Wireless Broadband connected to 4G or 5G, there are no technicians required to get you up and running, and no frustrating connection delays (you just open the router up, follow some simple instructions and you’re online). Best of all, you can take your plan with you anywhere with mobile network coverage and mains power.
Smaller data bundles are included in tablet plans (used in connected iPads and such), business people and market niches such as university students are already buying 4G mobile data bundles. Fixed Mobile Broadband solutions, (which tend to use larger data allocations than those bought by tablet or tethering users – in the order of 50GB or more per month) are already growing in popularity, largely by the ongoing halving of mobile data pricing every year or so. Now it’s possible to get Mobile and Fixed Mobile broadband bundles for as little as $60 per month.
Here’s how it works. When you sign up a Fixed Mobile Broadband service, you’ll be given (they’re often charged for) a Mobile Router. The router connects your home to the cellular network (that’s the Mobile Broadband Service.) Inside your house, users see and can connect to a WiFi signal as they would with any other broadband service.
The diagram above illustrates how Mobile Broadband works in general. There are different types of mobile broadband services. Some use a pocket or mini WiFi (or MiFi) to connect your devices to the web, using the cellular network. Fixed mobile broadband services also rely on the cellular network to connect your devices to the Internet, but they can’t be used on-the-go because they are fixed to your home or office. Both services are virtually the same otherwise – a router of some kind (mini or fixed) accepts WiFi connections from tablets, laptops, phones, and other devices.
The focus of this page is Home Wireless Broadband (fixed), which allows you to connect your laptop or other WiFi-enabled device internet remotely – without an active phone line. As already discussed, a wireless modem connects to your computer – or computers, using radio waves inside the house.
Traditional home broadband plans such as ADSL and NBN generally require connecting a router to fixed phone lines. Fixed Mobile Broadband options do not.
What really differentiates mobile broadband from fixed wireless broadband is the mobile aspect. The former can be used anywhere, while the latter must be used in the home or office. That’s because fixed wireless routers require mains power to operate.
With the roll out of 5G networks from Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone well under way, Fixed Mobile Broadband solutions are likely to really take off. All three major networks now offer 5G home Internet services, injecting some much-needed competition into the market.
Since they own and are maintaining their own cellular networks already, adding new users with a broadband subscription costs little ‘at the margin’ (for one more customer). Each new NBN customer, on the other hand, costs Optus or Telstra $50 or so in wholesale fees. As a result, there is a strong economic incentive driving the phone companies towards 5G home wireless broadband. The service could very well become a mainstay for home internet.
Almost certainly! All three major telcos now offer 5G home Internet plans, and they include a lot of data. In fact, both Optus and Vodafone offer unlimited data in their 5G fixed wireless plans, while Telstra offers 1TB of data in theirs.
Further, 5G home Internet plans offer some very attractive average speeds. For instance, Telstra claims average download speed on their 5G Home Internet plan is 378 Mbps, while Optus claims 210 Mbps during peak hours.
These speeds and prices are comparable to – even better than – fixed-line broadband plans out there. They effectively compete with the National Broadband Network (NBN), providing a genuine alternative to NBN, delivering ultra-high speed internet to homes and businesses.
Optus offer a satisfaction guarantee on their fixed home wireless 5G plans, which allow customers to cancel if their connections fall below 50Mbps.
The key to bottoming out whether you should safely move over to mobile broadband, using one of these bundles, you’ll need to know your current usage in GB. To establish exactly how much data you are using on your fixed-line broadband now, simply login to the online self-service portal of your broadband provider or give them a ring. They will be happy to tell you how much data your fixed line connection used each of the last 6 months. Take an average, consider a trend if you see one and get a mobile broadband bundle which covers the need. Single people might need only 100GB of mobile data per month. Families with YouTube obsessed kids might need 500 GB or more per month.
However, with most 5G fixed wireless plans offering unlimited data, this should not be much of an issue. Data usage concerns should only come into play if you are on either side of the spectrum – light data user, or heavy data user (gamers, for instance). While the former should avoid an unlimited fixed wireless plan and choose a mobile broadband MiFi plan, the latter would gain the most value from fixed wireless.
- No Set-Up / Installation cost or hassle
Just like any other utility, such as water, telephone, gas, and electricity, internet connectivity usually is reliant on physical piping or cabling to run to your home. But thanks to this innovative technology, home wireless broadband plans do not require a phone line or a technician to connect you to the internet.
Wireless internet uses radio waves of the mobile phone networks to connect you to the world wide web, and a router/modem provided by your internet service provider will then allow all of your devices within your home or office.
With the benefit of no-setup comes the absence of set-up fees, meaning it can save you expensive costs that you would generally incur with a fixed service. This is especially important if you move frequently.
- No Set-Up delays because of a delayed technician
Traditionally, when you moved into a new house or property, you would have to wait up to a week or in some cases even longer, for a technician to come and set the internet up in your new place. With home wireless broadband, you simply plug the modem into the power point and voila, you’re surfing man! (Ok, no more references to the movie Point Break).
Plus, the set-up is a breeze, meaning you can be on the web browsing your favourite websites in less than a few minutes – how cool is that?
- Wireless Internet is Portable – good for car trips and mobile offices
Another fantastic feature with having wireless internet at home is that you can easily take it with you. That is if you move house, or even if you go on holidays, you can pack your wireless home internet plan up and take it with you. All that is required is network coverage at your destination, and you can be using your internet just as you do at home, wherever you go.
- Speeds on mobile broadband are now as good or better than fixed alternatives, even on 4G networks
Telcos offering 5G wireless internet plans can guarantee high QoS (Quality of Service) levels. Consumers can expect ultra-high speed, high reliability, and low latency. Optus’ minimum 50Mbps speed guarantee is an example of this. 5G is set to finally deliver the speeds that consumers have been hoping for since the internet arrived. Also, even 4G mobile broadband plans deliver download speeds comparable to NBN plans, if not faster. This is true for most people, considering the majority of NBN customers are on entry level tiers.
- Avoid Exposure to Delays on NBN
As already discussed, a growing number of Australians are disappointed with the NBN (National Broadband Network). Many Australians are not enjoying the proposed benefits of the NBN and are having issues with speed due to congestion. Some report that their internet speeds were comparable or even faster at times on ADSL.
But the benefits of mobile are not simply in the value, however. As every Australian knows, the NBN has experienced its fair share of problems in recent times. Customer complaints rose by nearly 160% in the year ending June 30, 2017, from the previous year.
NBN Complaints are growing at an alarming rate. Source.
- It Hasn’t Been Tested Enough
Yes, 5G is already available in Australia, but only in select areas. Because the 5G network has not fully rolled out, it remains to be seen how the network will perform in every part of the country. While assurances from the Telcos are encouraging, as well as current experiences where it’s available, until 5G is fully available to everyone to use in our daily lives, we can’t really say how successful it will be.
- 5G Coverage is an Issue For Now
A key advantage that 3G had was that cell towers could cover large areas with relatively few cells. The reason for this is the network didn’t require much bandwidth. As technology progressed to 4G and now 5G, cells are producing more bandwidth, meaning coverage radius is reduced. Customers on 4G may notice at times that their coverage is lost and will revert back to 3G. This tendency will continue as the 5G network rolls out, whereby even more cells are required. 5G consumers already experience limited coverage right now, given its early stages of the roll out.
- Why is Home Wireless Broadband Important to Phone Companies?
Companies like Optus Australia are investing big in 5G technology. Optus has already acquired a 3.6 GHz spectrum as part of the multi-year build of the 5G network. The Telco announced plans for its 5G home broadband plan by adding 1,200 5G sites by March 2020 as part of their prioritised business plan to capitalise on the business opportunity from fixed to wireless access.
Like we’ve already pointed out, 5G coverage is not everywhere yet. This can be a deciding factor depending on where you live. For the most part, the 5G roll out has only expanded in major cities and suburbs, so Australians in rural parts of the country will have a hard time getting 5G coverage regardless of their network.
You can check if there’s 5G coverage in your are by going to your favorite telco’s website, but here’s a quick look at how many 5G towers / sites each telco has so far.
- Telstra 5G sites
Telstra 5G covers over 75 per cent of the Australian population, the widest coverage in the country so far. Their overall mobile network includes 10,766 sites, 2,695 of which are 5G sites. According to the ACCC, 346 of those 5G towers are in ‘inner regional Australia’, 92 are in ‘outer regional Australia’, 5 are in ‘remote Australia’, and the rest are in major cities.
- Optus 5G sites
With the second widest mobile network coverage in Australia, Optus have 8,238 sites. As for their 5G network, they have 1,010 sites, 35 of which are in ‘inner regional Australia’ and the rest in major cities.
- Vodafone 5G sites
According to Vodafone, their 5G network now covers 85 per cent of the population in 10 major cities and areas. It’s important to note that 85 per cent coverage in 10 cities and areas is not the same as the entire country. In reality, their country-wide 5G coverage is a lot less than that. TPG Telecom (Vodafone) has 5,892 mobile network sites, and 163 of those are 5G sites. Two of their 5G sites are in ‘inner regional Australia’, while the rest are in major cities.
All three major telcos offer 5G Home Internet plans. So far, because Telstra have the widest 5G coverage, they are the obvious candidates to lead the charge when it comes to 5G. However, Optus and Vodafone have some strong offers as well.
5G home wireless broadband plans have already become a reality, despite their limited availability. Optus became Australia’s first Telco to provide 5G wireless internet in Australian homes, and their fixed home wireless 5G plans are clear viable alternative to NBN. The plans from Optus come with unlimited data – very important for any 5G data plan – and a guaranteed speed of 50Mbps, all starting at just $79. Plus you can cancel your contract without penalty at any time if the speed that you experience with your wireless internet plan is slower than the guaranteed pace.
Vodafone and TPG both offer 5G Home Internet plans as well. Both offer two plans each, all of which include unlimited data. TPG and Vodafone have the cheapest 5G Home Internet plans on the market, when compared to Telstra and Optus. However, they might fall short in coverage. While the telco claims their 5G network covers 85 percent of the population across 10 cities and areas, that might not be such a wide coverage when viewed in the entire country as a whole.
Telstra, on the other hand, claims their 5G network covers 75 percent of the entire Australian population. The telco recently unveiled their Telstra 5G Home Internet plan, adding a great alternative in the mobile broadband market. However, while Optus and Vodafone include unlimited data in their fixed wireless plans, Telstra includes 1TB data in theirs at a higher price point. Although 1TB data should be more than enough for most, consider if it is the best option for you compared to the competition.
Summing Up – Could Wireless 5G For The Home Make NBN Economically Un-Viable?
The debate is heating up as 5G technology inches closer to becoming a reality. The next generation of network technology is anticipated to reach ultra-fast speeds not yet seen on mobile networks in Australia. At the same time, the NBN (National Broadband Network) has been met with mixed reviews. Fixed Mobile Broadband products might just be the slightly better product that turns the NBN into an expensive failure for the Liberals.
It remains to be seen whether 5G can replace the NBN though – it’s probably still several years away from being clear. However, 5G so far has been cheaper than initially thought, with some telcos choosing not to charge additional fees for its access. Even in Optus case, where it has unveiled an actual 5G fixed home wireless plan, the cost is very competitive for the plans unlimited data and minimum speed guarantees. This plan, as an example, should certainly grab the attention of NBN. Needless to say, 5G has enormous potential to transform internet use in Australia; however, it would be unwise to rule out NBN just yet.