NBN resolves software upgrade causing satellite connectivity issues

The satellite connectivity issue was caused by a software upgrade, with NBN also certain that it will 'never' see capacity constrain speed across its service thanks to beam-management technology.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The company rolling out Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) has said the issue with connecting users to its Sky Muster satellite service has been resolved, with a software upgrade that "didn't go to plan" to blame.

"The experience with Sky Muster I for people in regional Australia has been overwhelmingly good [but] there was an issue about a week back in relation to the software upgrade, which didn't go entirely according to plan," Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said on Thursday morning.

"Those issues have been resolved and there will be a fresh software upgrade."

NBN chief network engineer Peter Ryan added that NBN is now taking steps to ensuring the issue does not occur again.

NBN launched its second satellite, Sky Muster II, from French Guiana on Thursday morning, entering orbit at 7.30am AEDT after a 24-hour rocket-launch delay due to "high-altitude wind direction".

"Already, through the Sky Muster satellite, there are 31,000 premises who are connected. Ultimately, there will be around 200,000 to 250,000 premises that will be connected to the NBN through the satellite," Fifield said.

Despite this estimate, 400,000 premises are eligible, with Fifield saying the Fair Use Policy -- which caps users at a 150GB download allowance per month maximum in order to prevent capacity from being outstripped by demand, and 50GB extra for distance education students -- will prevent speeds from slowing down.

Ryan added that NBN is certain of its usage estimation, and has beam-management technology it can use to help ease the load so speeds will "never" slow down significantly during periods of high usage.

"Firstly, we're fairly confident of our estimates of that take-up rate; and secondly, it's something that we monitor very, very closely," Ryan told ZDNet.

"Thirdly, let's say that we have a number of tools, a number of solutions, to be able to continue to relieve load on various beams within the satellite, which is part of our normal management of capacity on the beams within the satellite.

"By using these various technologies, we will balance the load and never get into a negative situation."

Fifield said the satellite launch was part of the government's plan to ensure "no house is left behind".

"Today's launch means the satellite and ground station infrastructure is now complete, marking yet another milestone in the Coalition's commitment to deliver fast, reliable broadband to all Australians, regardless of where they live," Fifield said in a statement.

The first of NBN's two new AU$620 million Ka-band satellites was launched a year ago, with commercial services becoming available in April to provide 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 satellite, built and launched in partnership with ViaSat, SSL, and Arianespace, offers download speeds of 25Mbps and upload speeds of 5Mbps.

NBN retail service provider (RSP) Activ8me last month complained, however, that NBN is seeing "teething problems" with installing satellite services for users, resulting in a skyrocketing number of complaints from consumers.

Activ8me, which so far provides the highest number of NBN satellite services -- at 10,000 customers connected as of last month -- as well as fixed-wireless and fibre services, said it still has a backlog of 24,000 premises waiting to connect.

"We are currently experiencing an enormous lift in the number of complaints, and they're all around Sky Muster," Activ8me general manager Ian Roberts said.

"There are all sorts of teething problems associated with Sky Muster, and the installation process is an absolute bugbear."

NBN told ZDNet that it is working on dealing with the satellite-connection teething issues.

"Since launching our Sky Muster service in April, NBN has already connected around 30,000 premises in rural and remote Australia to our world-class satellite broadband service," an NBN representative told ZDNet.

"We are constantly working with RSPs and our delivery partners to fine tune our installation process and get end users connected to the Sky Muster service as quickly as we can and with the least possible disruption."

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