GUIDES & RESOURCES

NBN Fixed Wireless

The NBN isn't one size fits all. In a country as big as Australia, it takes all kinds of creative methods to transmit the NBN all the way to our homes. In remote areas, it can travel part of the way by radio. That's known as Fixed Wireless.
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Updated 14/11/2023
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Written by

Francis Taylor

Updated 14/11/2023

What changed?

New infographic added, checked and updated references to be most up-to-date.
Our aim is to help you make better informed decisions. That’s why iSelect’s content is produced in accordance with our fact-checking and editorial guidelines.

Edited by

Ellie Garran

Find out more about how we make money.

View our Privacy Policy.

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What is Fixed Wireless NBN?

Fixed Wireless – is it fixed or is it wireless?! Well, both. Let us explain. The ‘wireless’ here doesn’t refer to how you connect to the Internet in your house (say, via Wi-Fi); it refers to how the Internet gets to your house in the first place.

The majority of NBN connections are ‘fixed line’,1 which means they’re transmitted right to people’s homes via cables (depending on the type of connection, by a combination of fibre-optic, coaxial and copper cables). But in remote or regional areas – especially where homes are many kilometres away from each other – as you can imagine, laying cables right to every premises could get a little unwieldy! So in these instances, data travels via cable to a transmission tower, and then via radio the rest of the way.2 There you have it: first it’s fixed, then it’s wireless.

How does Fixed Wireless NBN work?

Fixed Wireless travels via fibre-optic cable to a Fixed-Wireless transmission tower. From there, it travels via LTE or 4G signals to a radio antenna attached to your house. It travels from the antenna to an NBN connection box inside your home, and from there to your modem.3

How do you set up Fixed Wireless NBN?

Fixed Wireless NBN does require a little bit of setup. Even if you already have a TV antenna, you’ll need an outdoor NBN antenna fixed to your premises.4 This typically gets installed in one of two ways:5

  • Standard installation
    Once you've picked your provider, they'll send over a certified NBN installer to your place. They'll check to see if you can get a Fixed Wireless signal. Then, if everything looks good, they'll pop an antenna onto the outside of your building. Not too far from that antenna, inside your home or office, they'll also set up an NBN connection box. That's your ticket to the Internet. Simple as that!
     
  • Non-standard installation
    A non-standard installation can happen if your home isn’t able to receive a Fixed Wireless signal. Don’t sweat it, though – it just means that an NBN installer will swing by and look for a different spot on your property where they might have better luck catching the signal. Once they find that sweet spot, they'll go ahead and set up your antenna and connection box.

Fixed Wireless also needs a few more things to make the magic happen: a modem and an ethernet cable. Your provider will usually set you up with these essentials (unless you already have an NBN-compliant modem).6

From here, this is all pretty easy to set up. You’ll just need to connect the NBN connection box to your modem with an ethernet cable.7 Then, voila! You're all set to connect your devices to the Internet.

How does Fixed Wireless compare to other NBN connections?

Fixed Wireless NBN occupies a pretty unique niche. It’s not the first choice for people living in bustling cities like Melbourne or Sydney, but it’s a godsend for people in remote areas where fixed-line options like Fibre to the Premises and Hybrid Fibre Coaxial are pretty scarce.

Sadly, it can’t reach the same top speeds as these heavy hitters. The highest speed you can usually get on an NBN Fixed Wireless Plus plan will usually sit somewhere below 70Mbps.8 And while this is overall faster than the average speed you’ll get from NBN’s Sky Muster satellite service,9 the fastest fixed-line plans leave them both in the dust.10,11

Fixed-line NBN versus Fixed Wireless NBN

Feature Fixed-line NBN Fixed Wireless NBN
Speed Up to 1000Mbps12 Up to 70Mbps13
Reliability Generally more reliable.14 Can be affected by weather like heavy rain or extreme heat.15
Latency Lower latency. Great for real-time applications like online gaming or video conferences.16 Higher latency. Less ideal for real-time applications.17
Coverage Available in cities and some regional areas.18 Requires physical infrastructure. Available in areas where laying cables is difficult, such as rural and remote areas.19

How can you boost Fixed Wireless NBN’s performance?

There are a few little tweaks that can help you get the most out of your Fixed Wireless NBN connection. As luck would have it, they’re pretty easy to implement, too! Here are some tips for smoother surfing on the web, even with a slow connection:

  • Avoid the traffic
    You know how traffic jams happen during rush hour? Well, the Internet has its own version of that, especially during the evening when everyone's watching their favourite shows. This dip in speed is usually at its worst from 7 to 11pm.20 So, if you’re after speedy Internet, try to use the web outside this time and see if that helps.
     
  • One at a time, please!
    Your home Internet might run a lot faster with fewer devices using Wi-Fi at once. If you've got a laptop streaming a show, a phone updating apps, and a game console downloading the latest Assassin’s Creed all at once … well, your internet's going to feel the strain.21 So try to limit the number of devices using the Internet simultaneously, especially for data-heavy tasks. Your connection will thank you!

  • Check your gear
    Even the speediest Internet can slow to a crawl if it’s filtered through shoddy equipment. If your modem is a decade old, then it might be a good idea to switch out the old girl for something a bit more powerful. If a lot of people in your home are using the Internet at the same time, a tri-band modem router could also be a game changer.22
     
  • Location, location, location!
    Did you know that the place you put your modem is also important? If it’s sitting next to a microwave, TV, or even your mobile phone, they might be messing with your signal strength.23 Putting your modem somewhere out in the open, without a lot of walls, doors or other obstructions, is also a good rule of thumb.

Where can I find and compare NBN Plans?

The type of NBN setup you can get depends a lot on where you live. But you still have a choice when it comes to your Internet Plan and provider. And that’s where iSelect is here to help. We’ve partnered with our friends at CIMET to make finding a great plan from their range of providers easy. Get started comparing Internet Plans* online today or call our friendly team on 13 19 20.


Sources:
1 Australian Competition & Consumer Commission – NBN Wholesale Market Indicators Report
2 NBN Co – nbn® Fixed Wireless explained
3 NBN Co – nbnTM technology 101: What is Fixed Wireless?
4 NBN Co  nbn® Fixed Wireless explained
5 As above
6 As above
7 NBN Co – Fixed Wireless Explained
8 Australian Competition & Consumer Commission  Measuring Broadband Australia Program, p30
9 NBN Co  Our premier satellite service for homes and small businesses
10 Tangerine  Key Facts Sheet: NBN Services
11
More Telecom - Key Facts Sheet: NBN Services
12 NBN Co  Upgrade to nbn's fast fibre 
13 Australian Competition & Consumer Commission  Measuring Broadband Australia Program, p30
14 Australian Competition & Consumer Commission – Australians receive consistent download speeds as fixed wireless connections improve
15 Australian Competition & Consumer Commission – Measuring Broadband Australia Program, p28
16 Australian Competition & Consumer Commission  Broadband Performance Data
17 Australian Competition & Consumer Commission – Most gamers enjoy fast connections as online gaming experience measured for first time
18 NBN Co – Rollout Map
19 NBN Co – NBN Fixed Wireless explained

20 Australian Competition & Consumer Commission – Broadband speeds
21 NBN Co  Tips to optimise your home internet set-up
22 Aussie Broadband – Not all nbn® modem routers are equal
23 NBN Co  Tips to optimise your home internet set-up

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