NBN launches satellite services

Those living in rural and remote Australia will begin being connected to NBN's satellite service at a current rate of 5,000 premises per month.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The National Broadband Network (NBN) has launched services on its long-term satellite solution, providing high-speed broadband for the 3 percent of the Australian population not living within the FttX, hybrid fibre-coaxial, and fixed-wireless NBN network footprint via the projection of 101 spot beams.

Users can now purchase services from retail service providers, though NBN noted that it could take some time for the connections to be made.

"We have teamed up with our delivery partners and now have a field force of over 600 trained technicians ready to connect homes around the country," said NBN chief customer officer John Simon.

"It will take some time to get all eligible premises connected, due to the sheer size of our 7.69 million kilometre-squared country, so we ask for patience as our teams travel around to install the service."

Around 5,000 users will be connected to the satellite service each month, before this scales up to 10,000 connections per month later in the year.

During 200 end-user trials of the satellite service, users attained speeds of up to 25/5Mbps, which NBN said amounted to being four times faster than existing satellite services, as well as allowing between three and six times more data.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and Regional Communications Minister Fiona Nash, whose portfolio was added during a Cabinet reshuffle in February, announced the service's launch on Friday morning, saying it will enable more jobs and boost the digital economy.

"Living in rural NSW myself, I know how fast broadband can help boost jobs and growth in rural Australia. These satellites will deliver NBN to parts of Australia which seemed impossible just a few years ago," Nash said.

"Affordable satellite broadband creates opportunities to run internet-based businesses from almost anywhere in Australia."

NBN earlier on Friday published research by Ovum indicating that its satellite service is "world leading" in terms of affordability, download and upload speeds, and peak data allowances.

For monthly peak data allowances, Australia's Activ8me is tied first alongside Canada's Xplornet, Portugal's Satinternet, Denmark's Europasat, Sweden's RBSat, Spain's Fastbroadband, and the UK's Avononline and Broadband Wherever.

In regards to download speeds, the NBN satellite service is ranked equal first along with Germany's skyDSL and Austria's skyDSL -- but trails both of these satellites, plus Ireland's Irish Satellite Broadband and onwave, Portugal's Satinternet, Denmark's Europasat, Sweden's RBSat, Spain's Fastbroadband, and the UK's Avononline and Broadband Wherever, in terms of upload speeds.

For price per GB, Australia's Activ8me sits in third place worldwide, behind Canada's Xplornet and Denmark's Europasat, with SkyMesh in fifth place and Harbour ISP trailing in 13th place, ahead of only Via Sat in Brazil, Exede in Columbia, Exede Liberty in the US, and Irish Satellite Broadband and onwave in Ireland.

Ovum then gave a composite score or ranking of between one and 100 for each satellite service based on all categories.

Under Ovum's scoring system, NBN's satellite service is ranked at 100 percent. In comparison, Denmark's Europasat is in second place, at 97 percent; the UK's Avonline is third, at 95 percent; and Portugal's Satinternet and the UK's Broadband Wherever satellite round out the top five, both on 92 percent.

"NBN's satellite broadband Sky Muster product provides a combination of excellent technical performance with strong levels of retail affordability when compared to international peers," Ovum concluded.

"The NBN product is generally technically as good as or superior to its peers, offering high download allowances and high speeds compared to other satellite broadband services."

The first of NBN's two new AU$620 million Ka-band satellites -- which Communications Minister cum Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull labelled unnecessary "Rolls-Royce" satellites during his tenure as shadow communications minister -- was launched from French Guiana in October.

While 400,000 premises will be eligible to order a satellite service, NBN foresees only 200,000 to 250,000 will actually take up the system. Were all 400,000 eligible households to order the satellite service, the "fair use" policy would prevent speeds slowing substantially, however.

The fair use policy will impose a cap on each IP address' usage at 150GB per month maximum in order to prevent capacity from being outstripped by demand again.

In December, NBN had announced an increase in data allowances for customers on its satellite service, upping its offering to 150GB per month plus 50GB extra for distance education students, having freed up satellite capacity by moving 40,000 premises to its fixed-wireless or fixed-line networks.

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