NBN satellite set for October 1 launch

The first of the satellites to service the 3 percent of Australians not covered by the NBN fixed or wireless networks is due to be launched in seven weeks.

The launch date for the first of two AU$620 million Ka-band satellites to provide National Broadband Network (NBN) coverage is set for October 1, with the satellite to reach orbit after blasting off from French Guiana.

Service to NBN customers is expected to be commercially available in the first half of 2016, with the second satellite scheduled to be launched later next year.

The pair of Ka-band satellites will provide broadband to 3 percent of Australians not covered by the fixed or wireless networks deployed by NBN.

Since 2012, the NBN has had an interim satellite service initially capped at 48,000 customers. After signing 45,000 customers, the company then known as NBN Co ceased taking on new customers on the interim service, amid complaints that speeds were slowing to a crawl as demand far outstripped the available capacity on the service.

Last year, the Australian government signed a deal with Optus and IPStar to expand capacity, as well as impose strict rules on customers.

"We will institute a new stringent fair use policy to ensure a minority of very heavy users cannot crowd out the majority," Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said at the time.

During his time in opposition, Turnbull suggested that the interim service "could become upgraded and become a permanent service" instead of launching what he termed "Rolls-Royce" Ka-band satellites that were described today by the minister as "world-class".

"The NBN long-term satellite service will be a game changer for those living in the bush, and will help bridge the digital divide currently experienced by many," Turnbull said in a statement this morning.

"These next-generation Ka-band satellites will deliver world-class performance and peak speeds of up to 25 megabits per second regardless of where people live."

Under changes proposed in May, NBN would charge satellite customers a AU$15 reconnection fee should a satellite service be disconnected in order to move house or suspend a service. Users connected to the NBN via fixed wireless, fibre to the node/building/premises, and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) would not be charged the fee.

The charge could be higher for customers who are not in mainland Australia or Tasmania.

Distance education

Speaking in Sydney on Wednesday last week, Parliamentary Secretary for Communications Paul Fletcher said a distance education working group had been established in Canberra to examine how best to utilise the long-term satellite service.

"One of the things NBN is looking at is: Could you use the long-term satellite when it launches next year, take advantage of the fact that the customer equipment will have multiple ports?" he said. "So over the first port, you'd have your standard consumer-grade service, and over the second port, that could be set aside for an education network, which is administered in each state by the relevant education department."

The ABC reported last night that as distance learning has moved to being 100 reliant on the internet, some families have experienced difficulties with the interim satellite service's 20GB quota.

"The service has been so oversubscribed that people now have had their internet usage cut back to 20 gigabytes a month, and that is, if they go over a certain amount, their service is suspended for the rest of the month and this is absolutely devastating for families that educate their children via distance education, because they've got no other option or no other way to access their schooling," Joanna Gibson from Wilgena Station said.