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What’s the difference between NBN Fibre and Fixed Wireless?

FiberOpticLight

So you’ve checked when the National Broadband Network (NBN) will arrive in your area, thanks to iiNet’s handy What’s available at your address tool.

Depending on your location, you’ll be offered either a Fibre or Fixed Wireless connection. This is determined by NBN Co and about 4% of the Australian population will be eligible for a Fixed Wireless NBN connection.

But what’s the difference and what can you expect?

Fibre

Also known as Fixed Line, a Fibre NBN connection uses fibre optic cable technology. Fibre optic cable is made of glass and uses light to transmit data with speeds much faster than over the traditional copper network.

It’s important to note that the NBN network will replace the existing copper network. 18 months after an area becomes “NBN-ready”, the copper network will be disconnected. So you really must upgrade to the NBN before disconnection happens -  if you want to continue using the internet and phone services – which I’m sure you do!

Some of the additional advantages of a Fibre NBN connection include:

  • Ability to transmit data over long distances with significantly less loss of quality than copper wire.
  • Resistant to noise and ground currents that can interrupt signals.
  • Capable of supporting high bandwidth. This means multiple users can be online at the same time and at the same fast speeds, shorter download time, quicker upload time and a smoother online experience. (Speed may also be affected by your equipment quality, software, broadband plans and how your ISP designs its network.)

The equipment required for a Fibre NBN connection is shown in the diagram below. For more information on installation see our helpful video on the iiNet YouTube channel: NBN Installation and equipment.

Fixed Wireless

A common misconception is that Fixed Wireless is somehow related to mobile or WiFi connectivity. In fact, the name refers to the type of technology used.

An NBN Fixed Wireless connection transmits data using radio signals instead of cables and offers speeds up to 25/5Mbps. Fixed transmission towers or base stations communicate ‘over the air’ with specific NBN equipment that’s inside and outside your home. Because data is transmitted by radio signals ‘line of sight’ from the tower to your equipment is essential.

But back to the comparison with “mobile connectivity”. Why is a Fixed Wireless connection more reliable than Mobile Wireless. Fixed Wireless delivers services to a fixed number of premises with a coverage area. While Mobile Wireless may service a variable number and types of devices. So during peak periods (when lots of people are trying to connect to the Internet) Fixed Wireless offers more reliable speeds because the bandwidth per household is more consistent.

The diagram below shows the equipment for a Fixed Wireless NBN connection. When the outdoor antenna is installed it’s specifically pointed in the direction of the fixed wireless facility (transmission tower or base station) to help pick up those radio signals.

Fixed Wireless lets iiNet provide NBN services to locations that are difficult or not cost effective to reach with fixed lines technologies.

If you’re in an NBN Fixed Wireless coverage area NBN Co will conduct a radio signal survey to make sure your home can receive a high quality broadband service via Fixed Wireless. If the signal isn’t strong enough we can explore other non-NBN internet services with you.

It’s also worth noting that in Fixed Wireless areas we can also provide a NetPhone service. This means you can use the NBN to make phone calls too! Note that customers serviced via a NBN fixed wireless will NOT have the copper network servicing their property disconnected.

TL;DR – A handy summary of main differences between Fibre and Fixed Wireless

  • Use our NBN coverage map to find out what’s available in your area.
  • NBN Co will determine which technology your household will receive: Fibre or Fixed Wireless. More locations are likely to be eligible for a Fibre connection.
  • Fixed Line uses fibre optic technology with speeds up to 100/40Mbps. Fixed Wireless uses radio signals with speeds up to 25/5Mbps.
  • Line of sight is essential for Fixed Wireless. To be effective, there can’t be any obstructions between the fixed transmission towers or base stations and your home.
  • iiNet can also provide a NetPhone which means you can use the NBN to make phone calls too.
  • NBN Fibre is replacing the copper network and thus it will be disconnected 18 months after a premise is deemed ready for service. NBN Fixed Wireless will NOT have the copper network disconnected at their premises

No matter where you live and what kind of NBN connection you’ll receive – iiNet has got your back. If you’re interested in the NBN, when it will arrive in your area and what you have to do, just join our NBN Interest Register. We’ll take care of the rest!

As NBN experts, we’re keen to provide you with helpful information and articles on the NBN. Is there a topic that you’d like to know more about? Just leave your suggestion in the comments below and we’ll tackle it in a future article on the iiNet Blog.

Photo credit: x_tine

42 comments

  1. Robert Mulder says:

    Since connecting to NBN speeds are so much better.
    I have only signed up for a a low speed connection at 12/1 Mbps but hey that`s way faster than what I had on ADSL 1.2Mbps compared to now 11 Mbps and i went for the Voip phone which is working extremely well and all this cuts about $40 a month off my phone and inter-net bill.
    What everyone needs to be aware of is if you are living in a rental you must get approval from the owner before having the NBN fibre Optic connected as cables must be put into the home and the boxes mounted in the house/Flat/Unit ect near a power point the owner will have to approve the positioning of those boxes.So contact your real-estate or rental agency now ahead of time.

  2. nelson says:

    When will Wintrop, 6150 be NBN available?
    May I know the exact Month and year ?

    Jen McKenzie Reply:

    Hi Nelson,

    If you’d like to check the progress of NBN in your area, we have a coverage map available here:http://www.iinet.net.au/internet/broadband/nbn/coverage/ that is updated regularly. You can also register your interest here: https://www.iinet.net.au/internet/broadband/nbn/register so we can let you know when it’s good to go in your area.

    As the construction is being undertaken by NBN co, and time-frames and boundaries for construction may be changed by them, we aren’t able to provide exact dates for completion at the moment.

    - Jen

  3. malcolm says:

    The difference, one you can have fetch tv the other you cannot…

  4. Wayne says:

    Depressing …. NBN getting rolled out and options of Copper/ADSL/ADSL2, then disconnect and NBN or NBN wireless …. I’ll take anything!!
    Very bad copper in my area, can’t even get decent dial-up over it, no ADSL, one tower servicing HEAPS of people on wireless Boradband because there’s nothing else available (0.7 mpbs is a good speed for me it’s that congested) Internet over 4G and the major telcos is prohibitively expensive for the amount of data used and Shoalwater (6169), isn’t on the NBN map at all …. :(

    Roland Reply:

    My Mother looses the telephone connection after heavy rain. She has to wait for Telstra to come with plastic bags!

  5. Scott Hewitt says:

    It would be nice to have a central point where people could find out actual timeframes for deployment of services to their address, instead of hearing the same-old ‘Coming Soon’ rhetoric…

    Peter of Adelaide Reply:

    @Scott Hewitt,

    Years back, before the change of government, there was an estimated time-frame given. In the area I was it said 2014-2015 now we don’t even have that, and looking at some of the areas with it, real close up view, I note individual addresses are missed … on the same street, insane the way this is being rolled out, and the dates extended by a factor or years to a decade.

    Greg Reply:

    @Peter of Adelaide,
    That estimated time frame turned out to be a farce and was manipulated for political reasons. Talk to people in new estates who can’t get anything except a mobile phone connection because it was wired for fibre and no NBN connection is available now or in the future

  6. Alan says:

    Back PSTN connected type back to base alarms won’t work over Fixed Wireless technologies, so retention of the copper network will be necessary in this case. B2B alarms will work over the POTS ports on NBN’s NTD but not if the power fails and then only if the NTD is fitted with the backup battery which will it give approximately 3 hours access time until the mains supply is restored. Not that that worries me. I’ll be dead by the time the NBN in any form is available in my area. LOL

    Peter of Adelaide Reply:

    @Alan, I’m sure the technology will be made to ensure such services are maintained. This is an aging population, so they will have to have something the alarms can use once the copper is removed from the ground.

    If not, then there should be an outcry now.

  7. Frank says:

    The so called NBN is a political joke. The speeds being offered are laughable. The prices are unfortunately a bad joke. If you want to talk Fibre then any speed below 1Gb both ways is an insult. AARNet are looking at speeds way above this. Are we in the 21st century or still locked into the dark ages.

  8. Haych says:

    Why are you referencing fibre? With the Liberal’s crippled NBN policy the copper is not being replaced with fibre to the premise. Only a small percentage of Australian homes will have fibre, the house previously connected.

  9. Ron says:

    I agree with Scott Hewitt. It would be nice to know when the new service can be expected, AND hopefully which service/

    Thanks

    Ron

  10. Rhonda says:

    Fixed wireless and ‘line of sight’ — no mention of what happens in a storm or heavy cloud or rain! Currently we can only get Foxtel via satellite and it loses connection in any of those situations. Copper and fibre don’t/won’t, as they’re underground.

    Kim Reply:

    @Rhonda, Our iinet NBN Fixed Wireless works find come rain or shine. It is so much better than the Satellite we had before. Oh, and we’re at the extreme edge of the coverage area too.

  11. Dr. Patrick Maher says:

    My son’s Telstra junction box was literally underwater for nearly a week – and it happens every time the water table rises. It’s, copper of course. Supposed to be replaced way back as far as 1993 as far as I can recall. Irrelevant really – it still happens every year. Telstra still won’t fix it.
    Where is he living? – in a major inner suburban suburb 5ks from the Perth Post office.
    iinet, you have to stand up these lunatics. Don’t let them roll you on these issues.

  12. Liz says:

    by the time we get it, it will be obsolete. This is hopeless.

    its called going backwards.

  13. Johan says:

    60 km from center of Perth and no indication that we will ever get NBN!!

    Anne Butler Reply:

    We live where NBN first came but being just 3 klms from the centre of town, we do not get iot.
    So much for NBN.

  14. Fred says:

    I was told two months ago to go ahead and arrange an ISP to install the Equip for NBN connection. I was so happy to finally getting connected. Than I got another letter, saying whoops, sorry , we made a mistake. Your property has not had the fibre cable laid in your street yet. I was devistated, and still waiting, waiting waiting. Maybe one day.

  15. Lyn says:

    What I find grossly discriminatory is it is someone out of our – {, the client who is paying,} control who is deciding which system of broadband a household receives. Who are they to decide what we get.? Just because a family resides in an area, their speeds – despite their usage and download/upload requirements – are penalised. Yes, the fixed wireless speed may be better than the option available at the present time, but will it be sufficient to be efficient. ?Once again, there is a huge bias. Ten years ago, my son in London had a cable internet connection. Australia doesn’t have that density of housing, even in our cities. Australia has longer straighter stretches of road. The task of laying cable should be easier, therefore less expensive. It’s a farce we are so far behind other countries as regards internet connectivity

  16. Taz says:

    Why is iinet pretending the government hasn’t changed? Most of us won’t be getting FTTH.

    “Depending on your location, you’ll be offered either a Fibre or Fixed Wireless connection” – more likely – neither.

    Expected better from iinet.

    Paul Thornett Reply:

    @Taz, I am reliably informed that the whole of the Central Coast in NSW are getting FTTH. If that is true, then I imagine many other areas may also be getting FTTH.

    Eli Harari Reply:

    @Taz,
    Taz
    You sound a bit hot under the collar and I do sympathise with you as it is disconcerting to find that current government creating an unfair division between those who are connected under the FTTN method and those who have already been connected to the superior FTTH. Factoring inn overseas models, it will prove unaffordable for the majority of Australian households a predictable division between the wealthy and the rest of us.

    Please give it a second thought and direct that heat to the current government and voice your opinions directly to Malcolm Turnbull
    Malcolm’s Facebook page, Twitter feed,
    https://www.facebook.com/malcolmturnbull?fref=ts
    https://twitter.com/TurnbullMalcolm

    Rest assured, I don’t have shares in iinet and I’m not employed by iinet, I’m simply doing the Australian thing; speaking up for the underdog that have provided me with customer service second best to non, the kind of service from the days I was born.
    Cheers and good luck to you
    From a happy grumpy old men

  17. mike bird says:

    Does NBN have even a vague idea when the roll out will reach any particular suburb? I mean, in Medina will we be waiting 1 10 or 100 years?

  18. Anthony Boza says:

    It’s a disgrace my area Mansfield Park SA is still not on the NBN roll-out map while nearby areas ST Clair Woodville and Mawson lakes are all on the NBN Map! Been waiting 3 years with no news on when my area is getting it like a lot of other areas, It’s downright disgrace! I get so angry when I see someone with a NBN Co fiber box and I still think I’m stuck on crappy copper! When need to get rid of Malcolm TURD BULL & the LNP Party and bring Back Labor & Greens that way we get our NBN soon and guaranteed not constantly waiting and not given any answers!If we got all the unemployed trained up and had a Work for the FTTP NBN then the network would already be nearly done and I would have an NBN fiber connection by now if only we had a competent Gov! yep we gotta get rid LNP!

  19. Mark Jessup says:

    I live in Rosebud South, Victoria, 3939, our whole area has poor to nonexistent ADSL. NBN does not seem to be planned for our area. We have lived at this address for over 8 years without being able to access ADSL. Maybe fixed wireless is an option for this area? I’m happy to run the optic fiber to every premises myself if it would help.

  20. Nev says:

    I need fast upload. Currently I have ADSL2 with around 18mb down and 750kb up. I regularly produce image files of up to 100mb and it takes forever to upload to a server. Even 5mb upload would be a major increase for me. I’m in the country around 100k from Brisbane so cable NBN is probably a long way off.

  21. ron says:

    Any news on ftth, or fttn yet I know the clowns are trialing fttn atm question is would I be better off staying on cable as im getting a stable 100mbps download speed. Unless ftth fttp is available I will be in no hurry to change over. And if cable isnt shut down I wont change over. As I curantly get a better deal than any nbn plan todate.

  22. Ross says:

    At my place of employment we got NBN hooked in 3 month ago.
    We could not receive data and ‘phone on the same NBN line.
    We now have to have 2 NBN lines. 1 for Data and another for ‘phone.
    We believe that this is because we use a real hardware firewall and the ‘phone is filtered out going through the firewall.
    It is crazy that the NBN lines are not protected.
    How will home users go protecting their computers?

  23. Jo says:

    I am on a disability pension & can barely afford the internet & landline prices now. Wireless is not an option as the signal here is very bad. The higher costs involved are just not worth it. I am very happy with my connection speed. Why should I have to pay more for something I don’t require? Why can’t it be given at the same cost? NOT HAPPY.

  24. ted says:

    Don’t be too quick to jump on NBN. After years of reliable ADSL I switched to fixed wireless NBN. What a disaster. Two months with no phone. Internet on and off and you cant speak to NBN, only your retailer. So the fault goes back and forth with built in delay. I have found NBN to be totally incompetent. Steer clear if you can !!

  25. bryan says:

    Can you tell me will Telstra still collect line rental for the fibre optic connection to all house holds. NBN in my lifetime Never.

  26. Andrew says:

    You’ll find that strong Labor Government supporting areas are first on the fibre optic roll out list. I’m hoping the current Government prioritises strong Liberal favourable suburbs to offset this political imbalance. Originally wouldn’t it had made sense to commence in the capital cities to aid business then target high consumption areas of Australia? It costs more to remove the copper lines – just leave them there.

  27. GKB says:

    Good article, but surprised you didn’t mention FTTN, then VDSL over existing copper. This can achieve up to 50Mbps, and later developments now up to 100 Mbps. I’m on ADSL1 at barely above dial up speeds; 50 Mbps would be heaven! This was Labor’s original policy, and I could have had it by now; I’ll probably pop my clogs long before anything happens, but, I did see an NBN work vehicle in town recently………

  28. Neil says:

    As a strong user of the internet for business and home I was getting quite excited about having an optical fibre cable connection. Then we changed Governments. The LNP have not only dumbed the system down (putting optic fibre into copper is a bit like running a six lane highway onto a dirt track), they have slowed the rollout down to a crawl. Obviously it’s an ideology thing. They are dinosaurs who have no interest in technology. I live in a Sydney suburb but I’ve given up on ever getting onto the NBN.

  29. Steve Clark says:

    I really don’t need nor want an NBN connection. I can’t see that saving 14 minutes uploading a wedding album is much of a gain, even if I got married 10 times. I don’t play computer games nor download films – I’m happy with my current plan. I object to being forced into a more expensive plan with more boxes on the wall, more power points needed and more batteries to keep replacements for. When (and if) my copper is cut off I’ll take my laptop to the library and use the free WiFi there.

  30. Sean says:

    Under the previous labour government our area would of had high speed optic fiber broadband by now. With this government we don’t even now IF let a lone when we “might” get high sipped broadband. Thanks for nothing Tony Abbott.

  31. Joe says:

    Please explain what needs to be done to have a hone alarm monitored via the NBN.

  32. waldo says:

    we have had NBN wireless in our area for quite a while around Tamworth be careful its not as quick as ADSL 2 or equal to it at best so why ????????? changes

  33. Naomi says:

    When I decided to buy a house in M’boro 4650 nearly 4 years ago, it was shown as a part of pilot plan for NBN. Somehow, during the change of federal govt. and “necessary” vilification and cancellation of all the previous govt’s ideas[at great expense to taxpayers], this burg with archaic telecoms has slipped off the NBN radar. Serial pestering of Dept Comms, NBN, even iiNet reveals …nothing. I may well be dead before it reaches here I suspect. There is no readily apparent pattern to this current NBN Co’s “roll out”. Why not?

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