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The role of the NBN in an increasingly mobile market

nbn mobile

A 300Mbps mobile connection is certainly grand, which leads some people to ask the question: what do we need the NBN for?

These amazing mobile speeds are all the rage right now, what with all the attention it has been getting from the media, together with the marketing hype that makes it even more popular, it is no wonder some Australians are getting confused.

So, what exactly do you need a 100Mbps fixed-broadband connection for? After all, you can only use it at home. Why not simply go all out with mobile?

The truth about the mobile market is that a user’s access to the 300Mbps broadband speeds is limited. Not only are mobile internet users given limited data allowances by their providers, but there is a huge difference between the peak speeds a mobile operator’s network can deliver, and the actual capacity it has available.

To put it simply, every mobile base station has a specific capacity that is shared among users accessing that particular base station. A single user on the network may get superfast speeds at low periods (like 3AM) when not a lot of other users are connected, but then on peak hours when usage is at its highest, those speeds can turn into a crawl.

Regardless of the existence of 4G, which has higher capacity compared to 3G, the fact of the matter is mobile networks continue to have limited capacity available for use to their subscribers. This is the reason why they offer low or limited data allowance to subscribers – they need to closely monitor and control usage of their networks.

Imagine what would happen if mobile network operators allowed unlimited data usage on their networks. It would quickly become overcrowded with the hundreds, thousands, or even millions of users all with access to unlimited data, resulting in very slow speeds.

Hence the importance of the NBN in today’s increasingly connected society. The network will provide the capacity Australians need as their data consumption continues to be on the rise. Fixed broadband networks continue to do the heavy lifting in the broadband market, with mobile networks being more of the show ponies in this case.

Figures from the ACMA Communications Report of 2013-2014 show that for the period of April-June: subscribers of fixed-line broadband downloaded 155GB worth of data, which is on average 29 times greater than wireless broadband subscribers and 80 times that of mobile phone Internet subscribers.

It is fixed-line broadband (using FTTP, DSL, or HFC) that is the work horse carrying the vast majority of data users require, while mobile broadband is the deliverer of data at high speeds but in smaller volumes, resulting in these two technologies complimenting as opposed to competing against one another.

As the move towards 5G progresses, fixed and mobile networks will work in tandem to create the sort of heterogeneous cellular + WiFi networks set to deliver even faster speeds to subscribers.


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