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Fact Check: NBN Co CEO on online gamers and nbn™ Fixed Wireless network

05 June 2018

Following on from NBN Co’s appearance at the Joint Standing Committee on Monday, there has been media coverage and social media conversation about NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow’s comments in relation to congestion on the nbn™ Fixed Wireless towers.

The claim that Mr Morrow blamed “gamers predominantly” for the Fixed Wireless congestion is not correct.

Mr Morrow said there were many causes of congestion including higher-than-expected take-up of the fixed wireless service and increased data consumption, but the main cause is concurrency. This is where multiple users are on the network at the same time, usually streaming video.

Mr Morrow was then asked if a Fair Use Policy (FUP) would be introduced on Fixed Wireless.

Mr Morrow said that to prevent the heavy users from impacting the majority, their usage could potentially be shaped in the busy period and they could download as much as they want at other times. He was asked who these users were that might be affected and he responded “it’s gamers predominantly”.

So, Mr Morrow has said that gamers could be affected by a fair use policy, if one was introduced. This is very different to saying that gamers are predominantly responsible for congestion across the fixed wireless network. This is also reinforced by the fact that Mr Morrow had already said that concurrency, not increased data consumption, was the major driver of congestion.

More importantly, this point was actually clarified in the hearing.

The Member for Whitlam, Stephen Jones, put it to Mr Morrow directly that he had said gamers were the problem when it came to congestion, and Mr Morrow categorically and emphatically denied that as demonstrated in this extract:

Stephen Jones: With great respect to everything you said over the last 15 minutes, you have been saying to us the problem here is gamers.

Bill Morrow: I never said that, hold on, I never said that. I said there are “super users” out there consuming terabytes of data and the question is should we actually groom those down. It’s a consideration, so don’t put words in my mouth.

Stephen Jones: I am content with that clarification.

While the confusion caused here is unfortunate, this does continue an important conversation on Fixed Wireless and the limitations of this technology.*

We have been very open about the recent congestion experienced in a small number of fixed wireless cells, and we have explained the rolling upgrades taking place to address this.

For cells that have a higher degree of congestion, we are actively engaging with retailers to provide them with information so that end-users can be kept informed.

We are also actively monitoring the end-user experience and we continue to look at all our options to respond to increasing demand.

*Your experience, including the speeds actually achieved over the nbn™ Fixed Wireless network, depends on: the configuration over which services are delivered to your premises, whether you are using the internet during typical busy periods, such as evenings, when more people are online, and some factors outside our control (like how far away your premises is located from the transmission tower, your equipment quality, software, broadband plans, signal reception, the plan you choose from your provider, the performance of your modem, Wi-Fi, cabling, other devices in your premises and how your service provider designs its network). Speeds may be impacted by network congestion on nbn’s Fixed Wireless network, including during busy periods.

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