While NBN Co’s own Fixed Wireless product is often derided for being slow and fairly uninspiring, wireless broadband from other providers has recently been a bit more hit and miss. Optus’ Home Wireless Broadband product – delivered over the 4G network – was a game changer for a number of homes that couldn’t connect to the NBN, and when the carrier moved forward into 5G and made 5G Home Broadband available, the “NBN alternative” became a lot more viable.
Promising 50 Mbps download speeds, the product is a clear and viable alternative to NBN plans (for those in the coverage area, at least) and Telstra wants to take the fight to the NBN with its own home broadband plans … as soon as it’s allowed to, that is.
Paul Smith in the Australian Financial Review reports that Telstra’s chairman John Mullen made these comments at a recent Business Summit event held in Sydney, where he predicted up to 30% of the broadband market could ditch fixed-line internet connections in favour of more flexible, better priced and more reliable 5G home broadband options.
However, for now, Telstra isn’t actually allowed to market a 5G home broadband product. Smith reports Mr Mullen as stating:
“Telstra by the arcane nature of the various agreements that we entered into during the formation of the NBN, is not allowed to advertise 5G fixed wireless as an alternative to the NBN. But we are certainly allowed to build that capability.”
It’s clear that Telstra would want to move into this space. Optus’ own 5G product has been around for a few months now and coverage is fairly regularly increasing (even if the actual footprint isn’t all that large yet). While Vodafone doesn’t have such a product yet, with the launch of its 5G network last week, it’s clearly ready to do so once it has a bit more coverage available.
With Telstra already abandoning the top-speed NBN plans – as it claims the FTTN and FTTC networks can’t support them – the move to a 5G pitch makes a lot of sense for the carrier; instead of selling an NBN product over which it has little control, 5G access puts the control squarely back with the carriers (which probably didn’t want to give that up for the NBN in the first place).
More control over service quality, a much greater share of the revenue … what’s for a carrier like Telstra not to love?
Where does the customer fit here?
Well, FTTC customers – who almost universally can support the maximum NBN speeds – are screwed on Telstra; at most, they can get 50Mbps plans now. This feels less like a technical limitation, and much more of an angling to get valuable customers (and their tasty revenue) back onto a Telstra direct product, provided they can launch a cheaper or faster 5G alternative soon enough.
Failing that, customers whose NBN connections can support higher speeds will simply go somewhere else and get a better deal, and Telstra may lose out.
No wonder it wants to aggressively move into this space.