The National Broadband Network Company today provided further details of how its Ericsson-backed national wireless network was expected to perform technically, with chief technology officer Gary McLaren (see video above) stating the network was expected to perform at least on par with existing 3G mobile networks when it came to network latency.
NBN Co has previously declined to say what levels of latency can be expected from the fixed wireless technology it will use to service most of the small percentage of Australia that won’t be covered by fibre-optic cable, in the wake of concerns the technology might be a step backward from what is currently offered by ADSL2+ fixed broadband.
The ADSL broadband currently used by most Australians typically, according to network experts, delivers a latency of between 10 and 50ms, while fibre broadband delivers a faster response time — between 15ms and 25ms. 3G mobile broadband can deliver much slower latency — for example, recent testing in Sydney’s CBD of Telstra’s Next G network showed an average ping time of 85.5ms to local servers, using one of Telstra’s Elite USB modems.
The Long-Term Evolution technology being implemented by mobile operators like Telstra will also be used in NBN Co’s wireless network, and has the potential to cut latency drastically — as low as 10ms.
Speaking at a press conference today, McLaren said latency on the wireless section of the NBN would be “more or less the same” as it was on 3G mobile networks.
The executive declined to provide numbers until NBN Co conducted trials of the rollout. However, “it certainly won’t be any worse,” McLaren said. “We really expect it to be at least the same, if not a little bit better.”
McLaren also provided further information on the likely speeds of the wireless network, noting the 12Mbps speeds outlined under the Government’s NBN policy were peak network speeds, with some network contention expected to cut that down a bit in reality.
However, the CTO added, users could expect to see dramatically better speeds than were available on some mobile networks. “We will be engineering it so that at least 512kbps will be available for everyone, and we expect to see quite a bit more,” he said, appearing to refer to the portion of the backbone link to each wireless base station that each individual premise connecting would be able to access in a guaranteed way.
McLaren emphasised that the fact that NBN Co was optimising the network for fixed connections on the side of buildings rather than roaming mobile use meant that NBN Co’s wireless network would preform much better in general than comparable 3G mobile broadband networks. “So we’ll actually see very good typical speeds,” he said. “That engineering of the capacity is probably ten times more than many mobile networks today.”
A number of trials of LTE services have shown theoretical speeds of up to 100Mbps. But although McLaren acknowledged NBN Co would look at higher speeds in future, for the moment it wanted to focus on delivering 12Mbps speeds in a predictable and reliable way.
“That figure of 100Mbps or whatever it is is obviously highly conditional on how many people are actually in the cell and using it, how close they are to the cell,” he said. “That lucky user … it may be there for a period of time, but over time as the network grows, they’ll see their service degrade. We’re about predictability, quality of the actual service, over trying to get maybe get access to people at higher speeds.”
Video credit: Delimiter