Online gamers have been called out by the head of the National Broadband Network as a major cause of congestion on the fixed wireless network.
NBN Co is “evaluating” slowing down or limiting downloads for users during peak times in order to overcome these fixed wireless congestion problems.
At a parliamentary hearing in Sydney on Monday, NBN Co chief executive Bill Morrow said that the heavy users likely targeted by a fair use policy were “gamers predominantly”.
“While people are gaming it is a high bandwidth requirement that is a steady streaming process,” Mr Morrow told the committee.
“This is where you can do things, to where you can traffic shape — where you say, ‘no, no, no, we can only offer you service when you’re not impacting somebody else’.”
Gamers not a ‘problem’
Under subsequent questioning Mr Morrow claimed that NBN Co would not have information on the behaviour of end users to confirm they were gamers but referred to “people who do have familiarity with it” .
Labor’s regional communications spokesperson Stephen Jones raised the issue again and suggested Mr Morrow had characterised gamers as a “problem”.
In the heated exchange, Mr Morrow accused Mr Jones of putting words in his mouth.
“I said there were super users out there consuming terabytes of data and the question is should we actually groom those down? It’s a consideration,” he replied.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority found in 2016 that increases in the amount of data transferred in Australia appeared to be driven by video content downloading.
A fair use policy already applies to NBN satellite users that limits peak-hour data usage of individual customers to no more than 75 gigabytes in any four-week period.
NBN Co revealed last month that some fixed wireless towers were experiencing take-up rates of 80 per cent and it has cancelled plans to offer a fast 100 Mbps plan on fixed wireless due to excessive cost.
Mr Jones said it was “extraordinary” that NBN Co had underestimated consumption patterns and that growth would continue.
“The only conclusion we can make is that there will be data rationing in the wireless footprint, as there is with satellite,” he said.
A spokesperson for Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said Labor had “grossly underestimated the demand for broadband services in regional and remote Australia” when it was in government.
“If we had stuck to Labor’s planned fixed wireless and satellite coverage, at least 200,000 homes and farms would have found themselves without any service at all,” the spokesperson said.
“NBN is taking steps to upgrade and augment the group of towers experiencing congestion, and is prudently planning to manage future demand so that fixed wireless users can make the most of the available network capacity.”
Mr Morrow said on Monday that fewer than 6 per cent of fixed wireless cells are failing to deliver evening speeds of 6 Mbps, approximately the speed needed to watch high-definition video content.
The fixed wireless component of the NBN covers approximately 600,000 Australian homes. 234,000 homes are currently connected.