NBN: Four months to move 18k satellite customers to Sky Muster, fixed-wireless

Despite only connecting 29,760 customers to Sky Muster between April and October, NBN left itself just four months to shift over the 18,000 customers remaining on the old satellite service.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) company has revealed that as of October 28, it had four months to shift the 18,847 customers that are still connected to the interim satellite service (ISS) onto its Sky Muster or fixed-wireless services prior to the ISS shutdown at the end of February.

NBN revealed when answering Senate Estimates questions on notice that it received 50,134 installation requests for Sky Muster services and completed orders of 29,760 between April, when services were launched, and the end of October.

The order lead time for services averaged 20 business days, or almost one month, between May and October.

NBN launched its second satellite, Sky Muster II, in October 2016, a year after the launch of the first satellite in October 2015, in an effort to replace the overloaded ISS to provide higher-speed broadband via the projection of 101 spot beams for those not living within the fibre, hybrid fibre-coaxial, and fixed-wireless NBN network footprint.

The ISS will be switched off on February 28.

ISS customers living within the fixed-wireless footprint are eligible for a fixed-wireless service rather than being moved to Sky Muster, however, with orders having been due by December 1, 2016.

"Where fixed-wireless is currently available, resources are in place with NBN's delivery partners to ensure installation for those eligible ahead of the ISS switch-off," NBN said.

"Where fixed-wireless services are planned but not yet available, end users will be able to migrate to Sky Muster in the interim, before connecting to fixed-wireless when it becomes available at a later date."

A breakdown by state saw 13,814 customers connect to Sky Muster in New South Wales; 8,950 in Queensland; 6,773 in Victoria; 4,250 in Western Australia; 3,115 in South Australia; 2,021 in Tasmania; 813 in the Northern Territory; and 24 in the Australian Capital Territory as of October 31.

There have been 31,007 reschedules of service installations since launch, caused mainly by technician issues, customer issues, weather, network issues, and non-standard installations, with just 18 premises visited by a technician unable to establish satellite line of sight.

NBN said that there have been 520 complaints since the launch of Sky Muster: 206 in NSW; 103 in Queensland; 94 in Victoria; 42 in WA; 31 in Tasmania; 23 in SA; and 21 in the NT.

"Over the past two months, there have been issues with the software responsible for managing various aspects of the satellite network," NBN explained in response to questions on notice.

"The root causes are understood, fixes have been identified, and we are in the process of rolling out new software to the network to improve stability and reliability.

"The total number of network faults since launch is 325 with an average restoration time of 1.5 hours. The total number of service faults raised by RSPs on behalf of end users since launch is 2,984; however, it should be noted that this is likely to include multiple reports relating to the same network fault or issue."

NBN said in October that the issue with connecting users to its Sky Muster satellite service had been resolved, with a software upgrade that "didn't go to plan" to blame.

During October last year, the average closure time for complaints was 21.4 days.

Fibre on demand

NBN also revealed through questions on notice that it has produced total revenue of AU$654,040 thanks to its technology choice program: AU$356,236 from individual switches and AU$297,804 from area switches.

The technology choice program offers Australians a pure fibre alternative to NBN's fibre-to-the-node, fibre-to-the-basement, fibre-to-the-distribution-point, hybrid fibre-coaxial, fixed-wireless, and satellite connections -- if they pay an application fee, a field quote fee, and then the cost of installing the fibre.

There are two options for the fibre-on-demand product: An area switch, covering between 150 and 350 premises; or an individual switch, covering one. Application fees for an individual switch cost AU$330, as does the quote fee, while area switches cost AU$1,100 per fibre distribution area, with the quote fee specified "upon application".

The cost of installing the fibre would then cost an average of around AU$4,300 per premises.

According to NBN, there are 15 individual premises currently making use of an NBN connection resulting from the technology choice program: Six in NSW; three each in Queensland and WA; and one each in Victoria, SA, and Tasmania.

The average revenue gained by NBN for these is AU$22,368 per premises.

No area switches have yet taken place, but there are currently two sites under contract and in progress, NBN added.

In February last year, one Tasmanian council said it would be requesting a refund on the fee it was charged by NBN for a cost analysis of upgrading two regions from FttN to FttP, because it was not detailed enough to warrant a AU$10,000 fee.

The estimate was between AU$2.75 million to AU$3.3 million for the Westbury and Hagley region upgrade, and AU$2.2 million to AU$2.75 million to upgrade Hadspen and Traveller's Rest.

Rockhampton Regional Council and Burnie City Council have also received cost estimates, while Goulburn Mulwaree Council, Greater Shepparton City Council, and Flinders Council also made applications.

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