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NBN to replace top-tier fixed wireless plan with best-effort service

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(Image: Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

The company responsible for rolling out the National Broadband Network (NBN) across Australia will shake up its fixed wireless plans in mid-2019.

NBN will drop its top-tier 25-50/5-20 Mbps plan by the end of 2019, and replace it with a best-effort plan called Fixed Wireless Plus. The new plan will initially be capable of 60Mbps download and 20Mbps upload speeds, NBN said, and will cost the same for retailers as part of NBN’s AU$45 a month fixed line 50 bundle.

After spectrum is reallocated in 2020 to conform to an ACMA edict on interference management, NBN said the plan will have the potential to deliver 75/10Mbps speeds.

“The new wholesale Fixed Wireless Plus product is designed to reflect user demand with our insights showing people connected to the Fixed Wireless network are using their service with a ratio of 10:1 downloads compared to uploads,” NBN chief customer officer Brad Whitcomb said.

“We acknowledge there are some users are currently experiencing slower speeds than anticipated in the busy hour on the Fixed Wireless network and want to reassure people that we are working hard alongside the industry to improve network capacity.

“With more than 3,000 Fixed Wireless cells upgraded this year, NBN Co’s monthly progress report shows our network capacity program has been successful in reducing the number of cells which fall beneath our busy hour threshold, however, we do expect some fluctuation over the next few months as we scale up our efforts.”

The company said it will be keeping its current 12-25/1-5Mbps fixed wireless tier.

NBN has been toying with fixed wireless plans for some time.

In August, then-incoming NBN CEO Stephen Rue detailed a new wholesale fixed wireless pricing — AU$45 for existing customers and AU$65 for new customers on the 50/20Mbps speed tier — during a joint standing committee hearing; however, after backlash the company retreated.

A year earlier, NBN had flagged creating a 100/40Mbps fixed wireless tier, but it too was unceremoniously dumped.

Former NBN CEO Bill Morrow told Senate Estimates in May there was no economic case for it.

“We killed it,” Morrow said.

According to the CEO, while expanding capacity on fixed lines is a linear cost, the cost is exponential on fixed-wireless.

“A certain point in time starts to double, starts to quadruple,” he said.

“The idea of adding a 100Mbps service actually means driving even more capacity requirement into the network, and the economics again … this is a cost-leading effort.

“It starts to actually break apart to where it doesn’t make any sense.”

Under questioning of how much it will cost to offer a stable 100Mbps service, without putting a dollar figure on it beyond being in the billions, Morrow said the cost would be outrageous.

“You would be blown away at the cost, it just would never happen,” Morrow said.

“It’s cost-prohibitive … you would not use that technology for that.”

In October, NBN revealed that more than 1,500 fixed-wireless cells had at least one service downloading more than 1TB of data during the month of May.

Despite this, NBN also said it had forecast to have less than 1.4 percent of fixed-wireless users on the dumped 100/40Mbps speed tier by 2022.

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Mini John Cooper Works convertible and coupe pack style and performance

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Mini has unveiled its convertible and coupe John Cooper Works sports cars. The hardtop is rated for a combined fuel economy of 7.1-6.8 l/100 km, with the convertible rated for 7.4-7.1 l/100 km. The vehicles also have low CO2 emissions making them sporty, fun to drive, and green. Mini said that the cars have fresh design features and new equipment for the current year model.

Both versions of the John Cooper Works have round LED headlights and a larger hexagonal radiator grille. The larger radiator grille works with larger side openings to channel more cooling air to the drivetrain and brakes. Mini also paints the bumper strip in body color and has modified the side scuttles on the front side panels and the rear diffuser on both models.

Power comes from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with TwinPower turbo technology. The engine produces 231 horsepower and 320Nm of torque. The car can reach 100 km/h in 6.3 seconds in hardtop form when fitted with the standard six-speed manual transmission. When fitted with the optional eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission, the vehicle can reach the same speed in 6.1 seconds.

The convertible is a little slower to 100 km/h needing 6.6 seconds with the manual and 6.5 seconds with the automatic. Buyers of the convertible get an electrically powered textile soft top and can choose an optional Mini Yours soft top with woven in Union Jack graphics. The top can be opened at speeds up to 30 km/h.

Both models feature Brembo brakes and 17-inch wheels; 18-inch wheels are an option. The latest version of the optional Adaptive Suspension is available to provide a balance between sportiness and ride comfort. The car also gets standard heated steering well, lane departure warning, and stop & go function for the active cruise control. An 8.8-inch touch display is used for the infotainment system. Pricing for both models is unannounced at this time.

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Opel Manta GSe ElektroMOD teases innovative Pixel-Vizor front grille

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Last March, Opel gave us a teaser of its latest Manta GSe ElektroMOD concept, an all-electric version of the brand’s popular sports coupe from the 1970s. The German carmaker is back to reveal more about its latest electric restomod, notably its unique Pixel-Vizor front grille that allows the car (and driver) to send animated messages to other road users.

“The Manta GSe ElektroMOD is the work of passionate designers, 3D modelers, engineers, technicians, mechanics, product and brand experts,” said Pierre-Olivier Garcia, Opel Global Brand Design Manager. “With the Manta GSe, we are building a bridge from the great Opel tradition to a very desirable sustainable future. This mixture of zeitgeist and modern is absolutely fascinating.”

Other EVs like the Mustang Mach-E and Kia EV6 have blanked-out grille designs, while others have illuminated units. Opel’s Pixel-Vizor front grille takes it further. It’s a digital screen spanning across the entire front of the vehicle. It can display a bevy of messages to communicate with pedestrians, onlookers, and other cars on the road.

In Opel’s video, you can see the car displaying “My German heart has been ELEKTRified,” “I am an ElektroMOD,” and “I am on a zero e-mission.” You can also see an animated manta ray gliding over the screen between the headlights. Yes, we’re talking about a concept vehicle, but we can’t see any reason why this feature won’t make it to production.

Opel utilized a Manta A model from its classic warehouse in creating the GSe ElektroMOD. If you’re old enough to remember, the original Manta was an iconic sports coupe with twin round headlights, a Hemi Cuda-esque hood, and a sporty two-door coupe silhouette.

Opel’s first electric car, the Elektro GT, debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1971 and is based on the Opel GT sports car from 1968. It came with a pair of Bosch electric motors and an all-electric range of only 27 miles. Despite this, it rockets from zero to 60 mph in under six seconds, pretty quick even by modern standards.

As you can see, Opel’s been dabbling with electrification since the early 70s, and it seems the incoming Manta GSe ElektroMOD is bridging the gap between the old and the new. We have no idea if this electric Manta is entering production, but there’s a glimmer of hope.

According to Opel, the Manta GSe ElektroMOD is getting its final touches at the company HQ in Rüsselsheim, Germany. It will also reveal the concept in all its glory this May 19, 2021. Until then, we’ll be back to share the deets.

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Ferrari 812 Superfast Versione Speciale has the most potent Ferrari V12 engine

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As the name suggests, a standard Ferrari 812 Superfast is, well, a stupendously quick supercar. However, Ferrari recently unveiled a ‘faster’ and more potent version of the 812 Superfast. It will debut on May 5 as having the most powerful and highest-revving V12 engine in Ferrari’s history.

Ferrari refers to it as Versione Speciale or Special Version, although the name might change upon the vehicle’s debut in the next couple of weeks. Despite this, Ferrari was able to whet our appetites by releasing a couple of tidbits about its latest high-speed creation.

The Versione Speciale will have the same 6.5-liter V12 engine as a standard 812 Superfast. However, it now pumps out an astonishing 830 horsepower, 30+ more horses than stock. It has the same power output as Mansory’s Stallone GTS convertible (a highly-tuned version of the 812 Superfast), and we reckon it’s going to just as quick.

Officially, the 812 Versione Speciale’s V12 is the most powerful gasoline engine in a roadgoing Ferrari. Granted, the Ferrari SF90 Stradale and Spider have 986 horsepower from a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, but the SF90 is a hybrid.

The new V12 also revs with authority, spinning close to 9,500 rpm. Considering a stock 812 Superfast produces maximum power at 8,500 rpm, we’re pretty sure the Special Version will sound more epic at full chat. Ferrari failed to mention the torque numbers, but we expect the new V12 to have more twists than a stock motor’s 530 pound-feet output.

We have no word yet on the performance numbers. But with more power than stock, the Ferrari 812 Superfast Versione Speciale will go like stink. A standard 812 Superfast goes from zero to 60 mph in 2.9-seconds, zero to 124 mph in 7.9-seconds, and has a top speed of 211 mph. Meanwhile, the Mansory Stallone GTS accelerates to 60 mph in 2.8-seconds and has a top speed of 214 mph, all while having the same power output as Ferrari’s latest 812 VS.

Other juicy features include Ferrari’s Slide Slip Control vehicle dynamics system and four-wheel steering for better handling. The exterior mods consist of more oversized air intakes, a new lip spoiler, new bumper fins, and an aluminum lover panel covering the rear glass. We also heard it’ll weigh less than a stock Superfast, tipping the scales at under 3,362 pounds (1,525 kg).

We’ll know more about Ferrari’s most extreme version of the 812 Superfast in the coming weeks.

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