NBN Co boosts satellite availability with new subsidy

NBN Co is offering up to 9,000 new subsidised satellite services through IPStar to Australians in regional areas who missed out on the company's original interim satellite service.

NBN Co has signed a deal with satellite wholesaler IP Star to get 9,000 more customers on a new subsidised satellite service.

Ahead of the late 2015 launch of NBN Co's permanent satellites, NBN Co implemented an interim satellite service with IPStar and Optus as a temporary measure before the two satellites were in place and ready to take on the three percent of Australia premises not passed by fixed line or wireless services.

After signing 45,000 customers, NBN Co ceased taking on new customers on the interim satellite service last year, amid complaints from consumers that speeds on the service were slowing to a crawl,  as demand far outstripped the available capacity on the service .

In March, the government offered up AU$18.4 million to ease up constraint on the existing service to improve the speeds available for the current customers, while NBN Co explored options to deal with the backlog of customers in regional Australia waiting for a satellite service.

Today the company said applications were open for the NBN Co Satellite Support (NSS) Scheme, which is operated by IPStar as the wholesale provider, with retail ISPs Activ8Me and Reachnet, but without NBN Co's direct involvement.

Customers will need to sign up for a minimum one year of service, and there will be no up front costs from the wholesaler, but NBN Co has warned ISPs may have their own up front costs.

The service guarantee in place with IPStar means the company is required to provide ISPs with a minimum performance of 65 percent peak speed for 85 percent of the time, which NBN Co said is the equivalent to a minimum download speed of 2.6Mbps for 20.4 hours per day.

Given it is just over a year until the launch of the long term satellites, NBN Co has had to weigh up the benefits of implementing a temporary service for those customers who were waiting for the satellite service, versus the cost for installing the equipment in premises now and then having to replace it when NBN Co's own satellites are launched. However, given the migration to the permanent satellites will likely take some time, it may be a while after launch before all customers on the interim service are moved to NBN Co's services.

NBN Co's chief customer officer John Simon said the NSS Scheme was essential.

"With high demand for broadband in regional areas, this initiative is essential to providing a reliable service to families and businesses that cannot access a commercial broadband service today," he said in a statement.

NBN Co is only accepting one order per premises.