NBN uncaps 'essential internet services' for satellite users

NBN says required software updates, web browsing, internet banking, and checking emails will no longer count towards the data caps of its satellite users.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) is offering bigger wholesale data allowances for customers, with usage across email, web browsing, internet banking, and critical software updates no longer counting towards monthly data caps.

The Sky Muster Plus plans will be made available in 2019 for "eligible users", and will include burst speeds beyond 25Mbps when network support and applications enable it.

"Use of other web traffic, however, including streaming video and online gaming, will continue to be subject to monthly data allowances, with speeds being shaped if data limits are exceeded," NBN said.

New NBN CEO Stephen Rue said the Sky Muster Plus plans is "another demonstration of our unwavering commitment to regional and rural Australians".

"Our team is also continuing to consult with industry on a number of additional wholesale product updates on the Sky Muster satellite service, including a regional enterprise service, as well as additional applications to enable remote telehealth and distance education," Rue added.

During the unveiling of NBN's 2019-22 Corporate Plan, Rue said NBN spends a lot of time looking into technological advancements, such as utilising next-gen VSAT on satellite.

"We have a dedicated CTO office who spend their time clearly looking at development and market," Rue told ZDNet.

"The world will continue to evolve and so will we, and as appropriate we will continue to evolve too, but we have active monitoring of all that happens in the world."

On whether NBN is still considering adding a third satellite or 1Tbps satellites, Rue told ZDNet that the company will "see how the world evolves".

"We will continue to see the needs of people and what's required. It's not something that currently we're focused on, but obviously as the world moves on we will consider all options," the new chief executive said.

In October last year, NBN had launched new satellite packages offering an increase in data allowances following criticisms of the service.

At the time, NBN had likewise said it was investigating additional education and business enhancements for its satellite service, including an "education multicast product" and an enterprise-standard wholesale product.

In May this year, NBN then announced that it will launch a wholesale business-grade satellite service in 2019, with the service to make use of underutilised spectrum from its existing satellites.

After signing a AU$184 million 10-year deal with Speedcast in February to work on the delivery of a Sky Muster business service, NBN has said it would have two wholesale category products.

The first, bandwidth services, is "designed for businesses with more complex networking requirements including wide-area network connections to multiple locations", according to NBN executive GM for Access Products Gavin Williams.

"Underutilised spectrum from the Sky Muster satellite service will be allocated to the NBN Business Satellite Service -- we anticipate using less than 15 percent of our overall capacity on the access technology. We will use this spectrum and parts of the Sky Muster satellite infrastructure such as our nine ground stations to support the service," Williams said.

Making use of spare capacity means the business service will be unlikely to be available on the eastern seaboard, however, where there is high take-up of the existing satellite service.

NBN is expecting to trial the service later this year ahead of a launch in the first half of 2019, after "extensive consultation" of its potential pricing and products over the next few months.

As of June 30, NBN had 90,327 active end users on satellite, with 68 percent on 25/5Mbps speeds and 32 percent on 12/1Mbps.

During the year, NBN spent AU$72 million capex on satellite. It made AU$30 million in revenue from satellite, up from AU$19 million the previous financial year.

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