It’s fair to say there’s a bewildering array of communications technologies out there in the marketplace today. And within each of them exists several different flavours and configurations depending on geography, spectrum, costs and other factors.
One technology which is garnering more attention is fixed wireless. Last year we wrote a blog addressing the question ‘How does fixed wireless even make sense?’.
Since then it seems an increasing number of Australian organisations have realised it makes perfect sense. Especially those in regional / rural areas needing to quickly provision fast and reliable connectivity to support essential services in the absence of ready-access to modern fixed infrastructure like the NBN.
Fixed wireless has uses mmWave (millimetre wave) technology, now supporting speeds around 20 gbit/sec. That’s 20-times faster than the 100mbit/sec some people are getting with 4G today.
Millimeter wave sits between microwave and infrared waves, which is the band of spectrum between 30 GHz and 300 GHz. This spectrum can be used for high-speed wireless communications as seen with the latest 802.11 and Wi-Fi standard (operating at 60 GHz). Interestingly, mmWave is precisely the same technology underpinning 5G!
Among the key arguments made in support of a national broadband network, is that it would help ensure organisations in rural and regional Australia are able to access the same level of communications as their metropolitan counterparts. High-speed internet and reliable telephony should be a given anywhere in the country. An increasingly important driver of this is the greater reliance on cloud services, which isn’t feasible without robust ‘symmetrical’ communications.
But as we know, providing this outside of major metropolitan centres has proved challenging to say the least, and many Australian organisations have been left behind.
Meanwhile, a growing number of organisations have embraced fixed wireless.
Among them are regional schools, which are seeing increased demand for fast internet from students, teachers and parents to improve learning outcomes, as well as better communications between dispersed locations to support more efficient sharing of information, and more effective operations.
In the agricultural sector, businesses such as wineries are embracing fixed wireless to establish faster, more reliable communications linking their own operations and their suppliers right across the supply chain, not just in Australia but also internationally.
Vets in regional areas face similar if not greater challenges, especially given – just like doctors – they need to manage larger data sets. As do many other professionals, such as lawyers, engineers and architects / builders operating in regional areas.
Of course, many businesses outside of the major cites do have good communications. But often it’s not consistent across the entire operation, which can lead to inefficiencies.
Importantly, reliable access to cloud services has become especially critical for any regional business hoping to effectively manage large numbers of customers, suppliers / partners and increasingly large and complex data sets.
As Australia’s fixed wireless footprint continues to expand, it’s become easier to provision point-to-multipoint solutions, as opposed to simply point to point-to-point as has been the norm until quite recently.
This has seen the costs of fixed wireless more than halve in many cases.
With fixed wireless, organisations needn’t worry about the costs of deploying actual physical infrastructure, which can be very high. Rather, the network is connected via simple radio antennas. Also, recent advances in communications software mean it’s easier to upgrade and maintain fixed wireless networks without the need for onsite visits, bringing down costs even further.
Without access to – or the budget to build – physical infrastructure in the ground, fixed wireless is a powerful – sometimes event faster – solution helping our regional organisations overcome unique communications challenges.
And of course, with the current COVID-19 crisis, this need has never been greater.