NBN satellite 'world leading' for speed, data, pricing: Ovum

In an analysis based on data allowance, download speed, upload speed, and pricing per GB, NBN's satellite has been ranked ahead of other broadband satellite services worldwide.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The National Broadband Network (NBN) company has published research indicating that its satellite service is "world leading" in terms of affordability, download and upload speeds, and peak data allowances.

In the NBN-commissioned Satellite Broadband: A Global Comparison report, analyst firm Ovum examined 18 RSPs offering broadband satellite services worldwide: Exede Liberty and HughesNet in the United States; Avononline, Beyondsl, and Broadband Wherever in the United Kingdom; skyDSL in Germany; Europasat in Denmark; Via Sat in Brazil; Galaxy and Xplornet in Canada; Irish Satellite Broadband and onwave in Ireland; skyDSL in Austria; Satinternet in Portugal; Fastbroadband in Spain; RBSat in Sweden; Europasat in France; and Exede in Columbia.

As NBN is a wholesaler only, Ovum looked at the plans currently published by retailers Activ8me, Harbour ISP, and SkyMesh in order to judge the pricing and data allowance components.

"Their performance was examined across peak data allowance, download speed, upload speed, and affordability (price per GB of data), and were compared to Australian retail plans based on NBN's Sky Muster service," Ovum explained.

"Retail plans based on NBN's satellite broadband service are world leading in terms of both performance and affordability."

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.

(Image: Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

"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."

NBN welcomed the report, with chief customer officer John Simon saying the satellite program will bring high-speed broadband to regional areas for the first time.

"The NBN Sky Muster satellite service will make a truly transformational difference to rural and remote Australians, as we offer some of the world's fastest and largest consumer satellite broadband plans to remote and isolated areas of Australia," Simon said.

"Broadband is essential for modern living. People in remote and isolated parts of the country will be better able to run their businesses, learn, stay in touch with friends and family, and access new tele-health services online. Australia is a uniquely vast country, making online connections increasingly critical."

Services on NBN's long-term satellite solution is expected to launch by early May, after the first of its 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.

Once in full commercial operation, the satellite will project 101 spot beams to provide coverage for the 3 percent of the Australian population not living within the FttX, hybrid fibre-coaxial, and fixed-wireless NBN network footprint.

Users on the satellite solution will attain download speeds of 25Mbps and upload speeds of 5Mbps on the top-tier plan.

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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