NBN trialling aeronautical mobile satellite service proof of concept with Qantas

NBN will be trialling an aeronautical mobile satellite service proof of concept for nine months beginning in February.

Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) company has issued a test agreement document for undertaking a proof of concept (PoC) trial for an aeronautical mobile satellite service, inviting customers to participate in the testing of services.

The document [PDF], issued on Monday, outlines the arrangements of the PoC trial, which would occur starting February 1 for up to nine months. Both the Qantas Boeing 737-800 and the Qantas Airbus A330-200 aircraft equipped with an Air Terminal can be used for the tests.

NBN specifies the Air Terminal as being "a network termination device and tracking antennae system which is designed to be used on aircraft and compatible with the NBN Co satellite network".

The tests will also involve an Air-Network Interface (ANI), an interface transmitting data to and from an Air Terminal and located on the outer surface of the satellite-based facility; and a Mobile Network-Network Interface (M-NNI), which is the interface at an NBN point of interconnect (POI) where retail service providers connect to NBN's network.

"The data service is a Layer 3 virtual private networking service on the NBN Co network delivered using the NBN Co satellite network that supports communications-on-the-move (COTM) and carries test participants' data traffic between an ANI and an M-NNI," the test document says.

Retail service provider test participants must install, operate, and maintain the Air Terminals, ensuring that they interoperate correctly with the aircraft. No more than one Air Terminal may be installed per test aircraft, while no more than two Air Terminals can be used concurrently.

The maximum speed for data transmission at each Air Terminal cannot exceed 20Mbps, NBN added, with any test participants required to provide feedback to NBN about performance and functionality "at regular intervals" during the trial and within 10 business days after the trial is completed.

The first of NBN's two new AU$620 million Ka-band satellites, named Sky Muster, was launched in October 2015, with commercial services becoming available in April last year. The second satellite was then launched in October 2016.

The service, which provides broadband via the projection of 101 spot beams for those not living within the fibre, hybrid fibre-coaxial, and fixed-wireless NBN footprints, will replace the overloaded interim satellite service (ISS).

The satellite service provides speeds of up to 25/5Mbps and data allowances of 150GB per month, with an additional 50GB download per month for distance education students.

NBN had received 50,134 installation requests for Sky Muster services and completed orders of 29,760 between April and the end of October 2016, and as of October 28 had four months to shift 18,847 customers still connected to the ISS onto its Sky Muster or fixed-wireless services.

A breakdown by state saw 13,814 customers connect to Sky Muster in New South Wales; 8,950 in Queensland; 6,773 in Victoria; 4,250 in Western Australia; 3,115 in South Australia; 2,021 in Tasmania; 813 in the Northern Territory; and 24 in the Australian Capital Territory as of October 31.