Small Perth players streak ahead of NBN

15/10/2018 - 15:47

SPECIAL REPORT: A group of companies offering a faster alternative fixed-wireless internet service has dialled into a niche market.

Small Perth players streak ahead of NBN
Pentanet’s Tim and Stephen Cornish with one of their satellite dishes.

SPECIAL REPORT: A group of companies offering a faster alternative fixed-wireless internet service has dialled into a niche market.

Signing on as principal sponsor for the Perth Wildcats has brought a little-known internet company from Balcatta into the spotlight.

Pentanet, led by managing director Stephen Cornish, was established about 18 months ago and provides a private fixed-wireless broadband service that can produce download speeds twice the pace of the National Broadband Network.

The company also offers an NBN service.

(CLICK TO READ A PDF VERSION OF THIS THREE-ARTICLE SPECIAL REPORT)

It has installed a series of fibre optic-backed towers across Perth, with customers needing a line of sight to the tower, along with a small satellite dish on their roof for connectivity.

Demand for the service in the Perth metropolitan area has come primarily from households searching for higher-quality download speeds and those with a poor NBN connection.  

“This is the first time we’ve brought ourselves into the public eye and that was just through the opportunity to become the principal sponsor of the Wildcats,” Mr Cornish told Business News.

“This is a relatively new space and we’re kind of spearheading it in Perth in terms of size and scalability.”

Pentanet was founded by a group of local gamers, including Mr Cornish, who were frustrated with Perth’s slow internet speeds.

“We wanted to have something better for Perth, we kind of get left at the end of the tether when it comes to internet, being the most remote capital city in Australia,” Mr Cornish said.

“I was always the kid who would have a LAN party for my birthday, so my friends and myself would make a network at home and game there.

“So, in a way, this is a much larger version of that.

“We’re in the process of building a network from Rockingham to Joondalup and everything in between so it’s really exciting.”

Pentanet employs about 15 staff, with its revenue growing 20 per cent a month currently.

The company has plans to expand its infrastructure, and Mr Cornish said the focus was on establishing a reliable network.

“Our business model is build it once and build it right – we’re trying to build a carrier-grade network for Perth,” he said.

Another WA company in the fixed-wireless space is Geraldton-based Node1.

Founded in 2009, Node1 originally focused on the Mid West region but established a presence in Perth in 2016.

The company has 12 towers across the metro area.

Service manager Shane Bishop said Node1 was shifting its business model towards leasing its infrastructure to other fixed-wireless businesses.

“At the moment I believe we’d have the second largest fixed-wireless network footprint in Western Australia, after NBN, so we’re wanting to make use of that in every way possible,” he said.

The smaller players are vying for a slice of a market previously dominated by the Telstra network, and more recently the NBN.

Mr Bishop told Business News that fixed wireless was becoming more popular.

“For internet, Australia has always been heavily influenced by Telstra and its infrastructure,” he said

“So anything that’s outside of what they offer, or at least a variation of it, has always had a hard time finding a place in the mindset of what an internet connection has to be.

“Fixed wireless, as we see it at least, gives us a way to affordably bypass any current infrastructure and offer a product we feel the market lacks.”

Other players

Emerge Internet, which is located in Clarkson, is another WA company offering its own fixed-wireless service.

Osborne Park-based Community Communications was founded in 2016 to provide a solution to long-running internet problems in the Perth suburb of Greenwood.

The company now offers its service across the metro area.  

Victorian company Clear Network also has a presence in the WA market, while South Australian outfit, Uniti Wireless, recently received a $5 million grant from its state government to establish a national fixed-wireless network.

One local fixed-wireless company that appears to have hit some trouble is Belmont-based Red Broadband.

A Facebook post by the company from August detailed a significant network outage, and there has not been any activity on its page for more than a month.

Red Broadband has not responded to Business News’ requests for comment.

NBN woes

The company in charge of rolling out the NBN’s multi-technology mix, NBN Co, has been plagued with customer complaints due to connection issues and inadequate download speeds.

That spurred the launch of a public inquiry into the standard of the company’s wholesale service by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in November last year.

Last month, in response to the inquiry, NBN Co announced a number of undertakings to improve consumers’ experience.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options