NBN satellite receives 3,000 orders for service

Just under three weeks since beginning to offer services, around 3,000 people have ordered services across NBN's long-term satellite solution.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Regional Communications Minister Fiona Nash has announced that the National Broadband Network (NBN) company has already received 3,000 orders of service for its satellite, just over two weeks after launching services.

"In just over two weeks since that announcement, NBN has already had more than 3,000 orders for service, and that number is increasing every day," Nash said while speaking at the CommsDay Australasia Satellite Forum 2016 in Sydney on Tuesday morning.

"I have no doubt that as word spreads in regional Australia about how good the service is that that number will quickly increase."

In what Nash called a "rare moment of bipartisanship", she recognised that the Coalition had built on plans by the former Labor government to launch two new AU$620 million Ka-band satellites, despite Communications Minister cum Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull having labelled them unnecessary "Rolls-Royce" satellites during his tenure as shadow communications minister.

Customers will be transitioned from the old interim satellite solution (ISS) onto the long-term satellite over the coming year, Nash -- whose portfolio was added during a Cabinet reshuffle in February -- said.

"[NBN is] set to perform up to 10,000 activations per month, more than this industry has ever done in Australia. ISS users will be migrated onto Sky Muster in parallel with new users, and the national ISS migration is expected to take 10 to 12 months," she said.

The first of NBN's satellites, named Sky Muster, was launched from French Guiana in October. Nash provided an update on the second satellite, saying it has completed its final testing ahead of its launch in the second half of 2016.

"The second satellite is currently situated in Palo Alto, California, where it has now successfully completed its final pre-launch testing. It is currently having its solar panels and antennas installed, and will subsequently be made ready for transportation to French Guiana as a complete unit," the regional communications minister said.

"Launch partner Arianespace has found a co-passenger for the NBN satellite, and a target date for launch has been made in the second half of this year."

While she acknowledged that it is a possibility, Nash said she is "very sure" that the rocket will not blow up on its way into space.

"Satellites have been known on the odd occasion to blow up while being launched, but given Arianespace's strong record of success, we can be optimistic for a successful launch, followed by a period of in-orbit testing -- and I am very sure that it won't blow up," she said.

"Once in-orbit testing is complete, the second satellite will be ready to join Sky Muster in offering commercial services, increasing both the capacity of the system, as well as adding redundancy in the case of technical issues with the other satellite."

NBN launched services on its long-term satellite solution late last month, 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.

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.

"NBN included new monitoring tools in its systems to better manage capacity. This helped to prevent that top 2 percent of high-volume users -- what NBN called 'top talkers' -- from unfairly slowing the service levels of all other users," Nash said on Tuesday.

"Some have sought to argue that the download quotas on satellite are unfairly lower than those available in metropolitan areas, but the evidence proves otherwise: In March this year, the average amount of data downloaded per month across NBN services was 114GB -- well within the download quotas available on Sky Muster."

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.

While users are now able to purchase satellite services from retail service providers, NBN last month 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," NBN chief customer officer John Simon said at the time.

"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.

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

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