TECHNOLOGY SPECTATOR: NBN Buzz – The towering inferno

Obstinate opposition to wireless towers is unlikely to derail NBN Co’s regional wireless ambition but don't expect a comment from the Coalition.

Technology Spectator

NBN Buzz is a weekly wrap up of everything that's going on with Australia's largest infrastructure project. For previous editions visit our NBN Buzz page.

Wireless tower inferno

NBN Co has had to put out a few fires this week as an old gripe made its way back in to the headlines. With the rollout of the NBN in full swing, the malaise this time is squarely targeted against the wireless component of the network, particularly the towers that will deliver the long-term evolution fixed wireless network to regional areas. NBN Co inked a $1.1 billion deal with Sweden’s Ericsson in June last year to roll out the fixed wireless service to areas that will miss out on the fibre network. Things officially got off the ground in August (with rural communities surrounding Geraldton, Toowoomba, Tamworth, Ballarat in Victoria and Darwin in the Northern Territory selected as the first five sites. The plan is to connect close to 14,000 premises my the middle of this year, but it hasn’t taken long for some locals to raise the banner of rebellion, their target the 40-metre towers that will be pillars of the wireless network.

With contractors working for NBN Co filing their planning applications, some residents in Victoria have kicked up a fuss with regards to the health and aesthetic impact of the towers. Incidentally, NBN Co has reportedly signed up five companies to conduct trials of the fixed wireless network, with iiNet and Internode both involved in the process. NBN Co has told ZDNet the final agreement is still being formalised and it looks like the first trial will be conducted in Armidale, which you may notice is not in one of the five regional areas originally earmarked by the government. 

Resistance to mobile towers is not a new phenomenon so it’s hardly surprising that fears of radiation and just how badly a 40-metre tower in your backyard will spoil the view have again come to the fore. The challenge for NBN Co is to nip this in the bud before it becomes a bigger issue. NBN Co boss Mike Quigley has moved promptly on that front, saying that regional towns that oppose the towers may have to make do with slower satellite connections and that it will initiate further community consultation to dispel some of the community concerns. The one thing that Quigley makes quite clear is that those hoping for a fibre alternative to the wireless service are in for a disappointment.