For those just outside range of NBN Fixed Wireless it can be difficult to make sense of your options. NBN take a rather hard-lined approach to determining those who they are willing to provide a service to, as such it can be frustrating to be so close to a solution, yet seemingly so far. This guide has been compiled from public resources to help those in this situation get a "Non Standard Installation" agreed to by NBN.
Firstly, why do NBN take such a hard-lined approach?
Unlike private sector carriers, such as Telstra and Optus, NBN provide an assurance on the data rate provided to their customers. Accordingly steps need to be taken to ensure the data rate is available not only to the householder but to all other users of the base station. A low signal strength means that to provide a connection of a prescribed data rate, several copies of the same data must be sent to ensure at least one copy can be read. Under worst conditions your connection could be using 20x more airtime than it should - this means that for you to be connected, 19 others must miss out. For a more technical explanation you can google LTE Spectral Efficiency.
What signal strength do NBN need to install at my premises?
To install NBN Fixed Wireless at a customers address, NBN require a minimum signal strength reading of -99dBm RSRP to be achieved on the roof by the field technician. If this is not achievable, the system will not be installed. Fortunately however it's not the end of the road - NBN can still install on your property under a Non-Standard Installation.
NBN Fixed Wireless Non-Standard Installation
Put simply, a Standard Installation consists of an Outdoor Unit (ODU) installed on the roof using a basic satellite roof mount, and a Network Termination Device (NTD) installed on an internal wall, with an Ethernet cable connecting the two and the system powered by 240VAC (power point within 3m). A Standard Installation is shown in the below diagram (courtesy of NBNCo).
A Non-Standard Installation on the other hand involves the preparation of a building or structure so that the NBN technician can come to the property and complete the installation as though he/she is installing per the above. Essentially all preparations must be completed to allow the technician to attach the ODU, run an Ethernet cable, mount the NTU inside, and connect into the power point. Nothing outside of the technicians normal duties can be imposed. It is up to the customer to arrange all of this, at their cost.
The beauty of this is that provided you are not imposing any extra demand or work, or introducing a safety risk to the technician, you're not limited to installing on the house itself.
The First Step
The first step to all of this is to talk to NBN, who can put you in touch with the local technician who will come out to conduct the field test. If signal is determined to be sufficiently strong at the premises itself all this may not be necessary. If signal is marginally too weak he/she may have some suggestions on how signal strength can be simply improved - such as removing obstructing bushes or trees. Failing the above, the technician may then be able to walk around the property to locate a point at which signal strength is strong enough on their handheld meter. As with all wireless networks, terrain high points and areas clear of vegetation are the most likely candidates. Of course it would be unreasonable to expect the technician to spend hours hiking your property, so you may need to discuss their willingness in advance.
In determining suitable installation sites, it must be possible for you to connect the site back to your house in some way (how else would you use the service). While some of our customers have gone to rather substantial lengths involving several towers to bounce the service around the property, the simplest locations are those with clear line of sight back to the premises. Locations within 70m of the house may be suitable for trenching the ODU->NTU Ethernet cable in the ground, avoiding any need for solar power or electrical enclosures.
I've located a site, what's next?
As it is up to the customer requesting the Non-Standard Installation to prepare the site for the technician, it's time to determine what you need at the site.
If the site is more than 70m away it's typically best to set up a small system that runs off solar power. This system will consist of the following main components:
- Solar Panels & Mounting Bracket
- Batteries & Regulator (inside cabinet)
- Point to Point Wireless Bridge
- PoE Injector for Wireless Bridge (inside cabinet)
Assuming the NBN technician was able to locate a site using his handheld meter, it's likely only a small mast is required. NBN strictly will not climb any tower on your property, so if a larger tower is required then it must be a serviceable tower such as a hinged or tilt-up mast. There are three suitable types listed below:
Ground Screw Mast
This is a mast that uses Ground Screw Mounting, ideal for locations with good soil. A very quick system that can be used to avoid pouring concrete for the mast/tower footings. Understandably these masts are limited to short heights.
Aluminium Lattice Mast (2.5m and 5m Options Available)
This tilt-up aluminium lattice mast is extremely lightweight, yet fully engineered. 2.5m masts can be hand-raised by a single person, with only a small concrete footing required.
Lowering Mast (Several Options Available)
For locations requiring additional height the next option available is to use a hinged mast. This type of mast requires the largest concrete footing, and will require a Hiab or crane to lift into place. It's important to remember that larger freestanding or guyed masts cannot be used as the NBN technician will not climb your tower.
Telco supply a high quality B&R cabinet which will contain two batteries, regulator, inverter, PoE injector, and leave enough space for the NBN technician to mount the NTU. If building an enclosure yourself you'll need to leave enough space to mount the 220 x 127mm NTU, along with sufficient space to connect associated cabling. Telco provide the enclosure and internal components pre-built for simple installation.
Solar Panels & Mounting Bracket
While the NTU requires a 12VDC 2A power supply, it is not possible to use a non-NBN supplied power pack or cable. This unfortunately means the system must run off 240VAC, meaning an inverter is required. The downside to this is the loss of efficiency along with the power loss from generating a constant 240VAC current. The smallest practical inverter is 50W, meaning 2x 160W solar panels are required to ensure a 24/7 supply. The two panels can be mounted using a Telco fabricated pole mounting kit.
Batteries & Regulator
Again due to the high power consumption of the inverter, the system requires a minimum of 2x 120Ah batteries and a 30A regulator to provide for a few days of cloudy weather or rain.
Point to Point Wireless Bridge & PoE
Wireless links consist of a transmitting dish antenna and a receiving dish antenna, and put simply create a virtual Ethernet cable through the air - meaning there is no additional complexity introduced despite the seemingly complicated equipment. The choice of hardware depends on distance the link must transmit. If your site is similar to most, distances are less than 1-2km. As such the following two are good choices based on grade of equipment required:
Both units are supplied with a 240VAC PoE injector to be installed inside the cabinet. To minimise load through the inverter, a DC-DC Injector is available for the Ubiquiti NanoBeam:
This dish now must be aimed back towards the house requiring the internet connection. Depending on distance you may need to be quite accurate, within a few degrees. For distances exceeding 1km it may be best to leave this to a Telco technician, or a local IT company. For several kilometre links it is essential to seek advice on equipment and potentially have a link study performed. Such links are only possible with completely clear line of sight.
Equipment at the House
In a standalone system, all NBN and associated equipment will be located at a mast on your property that can receive good signal. The mast now has a wireless bridge consisting of a dish. To provide this internet service inside your house, you'll need to install one of the dishes mentioned above on the house. A cable will be run inside the house and either down into your computer, or into a WiFi access point which can then provide connectivity to multiple devices.
As networking can be complicated, it's typically best to have a Telco technician or local IT company complete both the wireless link, along with setting up the WiFi access point inside your house.
After setting up the wireless receiver and WiFi access point inside your house you've completed all necessary preparations to have a Non-Standard NBN Installation take place. You can now make contact with NBN to arrange the visit, be sure to discuss the points raised above with the technician visiting.