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Woombah internet ‘black hole’: NBN Co responds

Last week the Independent published a story – Woombah residents caught in NBN black hole – that revealed the frustration experienced by many Woombah residents when it comes to gaining reliable and/or adequate internet access.

The story concluded with: “Mr Scott [NBN Co’s regional manager] had not responded before the Independent’s print deadline.”

NBN Co subsequently provided a response through its NSW/ACT media manager.

The Independent wrote in its enquiry that it had “been speaking with the president of the Woombah Residents Association, Kerry Wilsmore, and other residents regarding their inability to connect to the fixed wireless service. Below are several questions for Mr Scott.

Now that it is established that the two towers – Mororo and Palmers Is – have failed to provide a service, how is NBN Co proposing to meet its duty to provide the service?

Is it true that fibre for the purpose of FTTN installation in Iluka will pass through the village?

If so, why can’t this opportunity be used to connect Woombah residents to the NBN?

  • How will residents cope when the landline is switched off, given NBN Co says these services will be switched off? “Telstra Home/landline phone services (except some Telstra Velocity lines). Home and landline phone services from all other phone companies, where the service is provided over Telstra’s copper phone lines. All ADSL, ADSL2 and ADSL2+ internet services from all providers. Telstra BigPond cable internet services. Optus cable internet and cable phone services.”
  • Woombah residents have informed me that Mr Scott is advocating satellite as the fix for this problem, is that correct?
  • This would appear to be an ad hoc solution that goes against all that has been promoted by NBN Co and the federal government – it is less reliable and substantially more expensive – why is this deemed to be a suitable solution to around 60 per cent of Woombah’s population?
  • NBN Co was warned back when the West Street tower was installed that these problems would occur; how much extra has been and is likely to be spent as a result of this planning failure by both NBN Co and the federal government?

NBN Co replied with the following statement.

In response to your email below the following information addresses your questions.

On background

Unfortunately, there is some misinformation in the Woombah community and NBN Co would like to take this opportunity to clarify the situation.

The Woombah Fixed Wireless tower has been active since 27 February 2015 and around 62% of those who can connect, have done so.

For those premises (less than 20) where connection to nbn’s wireless service is not available, nbn™ Sky Muster™ satellite is the alternative.

The nbn™ Sky Muster™ Plus satellite service has had recent upgrades allowing much of the data people use to be unmetered; the only data measured is streaming entertainment & VPN traffic.

The media release has more information:

As Fixed Wireless is a radio technology and requires line of sight to the antenna, reception is dependent on several factors, including topography and geography.

If we cannot achieve strength of signal needed to deliver Fixed Wireless, these premises can be connected via nbn™ Sky Muster™ satellite.

Costs start at around $70 per month, depending on your service provider.

Note that all NBN Fixed Wireless towers in the region are functioning as expected, and not failing as suggested in your questions. (Note: the Independent did not say the towers were failing; it wrote that “NBN Co’s regional manager, Ian Scott, advised the Woombah Residents Association that two towers – one at Mororo and another at Palmers Island – would provide [improved] NBN services to Woombah residents. However, according to residents, things have not improved since the towers were commissioned.)

Also, no unplanned costs are being incurred for changing a property from wireless to satellite.

The assumption that we could use the fibre that runs through the town to provide fixed line service is incorrect. The transit service does not have the technical capability to support fixed line services in the area. (Note: The Independent has sighted an email from Mr Scott to one resident that states: “Even when nbn transit cable passes thought the village, the cost to break out of the fibre are not economical for typically less than 1000 premises. Very rough back-of-the-envelope calculations budget $200,000 to $500,000 for the break out of transit fibre and enable the local exchange, and then some local distribution at something like $5-10K per premises, if it was only for your premises then you would be liable for all the costs, and it’s unlikely that this would be a viable solution for you.”)

Any existing copper lines and services at people’s premises will not be altered or changed by an nbn™ Sky Muster™ satellite or Fixed Wireless installation. In Sky Muster™ satellite and Fixed Wireless areas, premises have the choice to keep their existing landline phone service over the copper network active, or switch over to a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service on the nbn™ access network through a preferred phone and internet provider – connecting your new phone via the nbn™ supplied equipment.

Note that in order to meet our objective of rolling out the network to Australians by 2020, we use a range of technologies which provide access to fast broadband.

The decision of which technology is deployed is made on an area-by-area basis by weighing up several factors, such as what is the most cost-effective, best fit and efficient rollout technology for the area.

It’s also common for an area to be served by more than one technology based on the best solution for the location.

The following can be attributed to a nbn™ spokesperson:

NBN Co is rolling out the nbn™ network as quickly and efficiently as possible and we are on track to provide access to fast broadband to all Australians by 2020.

In order to meet our objective of rolling out the network to Australians by 2020, we use a range of technologies which provide access to fast broadband.

Homes and businesses in Woombah are being serviced by a mixture of Fixed Wireless and satellite technologies. Making the switch to the nbn is not automatic and we encourage the community to use NBN Co’s Check Your Address function on the nbn website ( to see which technology is available at their premises.   

Where residents, businesses or Council wish to pursue a change in technology mix for a community, this option is available via our Technology Choice Program – this program has been in place since 2016 and provides interested parties with the option to pay for a switch to their nbn™ broadband access network technology.

We will continue to work with and support the Woombah community including speaking to residents, business and community groups about how to connect and making the most of their nbn connection.


Last Weeks Story:


Here are some helpful links for more information on nbn’s commitment to regional Australia and Fixed Wireless technology: