Australians in regional areas out of reach of fixed-line services may want to opt for satellite broadband. Here's everything you need to know about the technology.
Satellite broadband options are available for individuals who can’t access a traditional fixed-line NBN product like Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) or Fibre To The Node (FTTN). With new NBN satellite technology now available, connection speeds for remote Australians are significantly improved.
How does satellite broadband work?
Many people outside of Australia’s metropolitan areas are unable to access fixed-line broadband services offered to those in more populated areas. Satellite broadband is a wireless alternative that Australians unable to access any other type of broadband service are able to use to access the Internet.
To access satellite broadband, a home or business has a dish or antennae installed that sends and receives data to and from an orbiting satellite. This data is then transmitted back down from the satellite to a ground tracking station, granting the home or business access to the Internet.
For many years, the speeds offered on residential satellite connections have been substantially lower than metropolitan broadband services. More recently, nbn, the company building the National Broadband Network, launched its own satellite (known as Sky Muster) which is now online.
In 2011, nbn co began offering a temporary satellite solution for regional customers with its Interim Satellite Service (ISS) and nbn Satellite Support Scheme (NSS). nbn co claims its ISS and the NSS connected 48,000 homes in Australia between July 2011 and December 2015. However, nbn co has since ceased ISS and NSS installations in favour of the new “Sky Muster” long term NBN satellite technology.
Before ISS and NSS, there was the Australian Broadband Guarantee (ABG). The ABG was an initiative designed to help homes and businesses connect to the internet regardless of geographical restrictions, with a specific focus on non-metro customers without access to traditional broadband services.
Under the ABG, regional customers could expect minimum speeds of up to 512Kbps download and 128Kbps upload. Then in 2011, ISS and NSS promised customers speeds of up to 6Mbps down and 1Mbps up and 4Mbps down and 1Mbps up, respectively.
Now that the NBN long term satellite system (Sky Muster) has become available, users can expect speeds of up to 25Mbps down and 5Mbps up. As always, this depends on factors such as equipment quality and your location.
Where is satellite broadband available?
Satellite nbn is only available to those who are not covered by the nbn's various fixed line technologies. Anyone in Australia not eligible for fixed line NBN will be able to access satellite NBN. There are some geographical requirements (like having no overhanging obstructions) that must be met before proceeding with installation, but your provider will discuss any issues at the time of installation.
The Sky Muster Satellite nbn service is available at two speed tiers and at different price points, based on included data.
Satellite nbn will only be available with 12/1 Mbps and 25/5 Mbps speed packs. As with fixed-line nbn, higher speed packs come at a higher price. In many cases, plans come at the 12/1 Mbps speed as standard, but can be upgraded to 25/5 Mbps for an additional $5 per month.
Pricing will vary across different providers, depending on speed and data inclusions. But most plans will cost anywhere between $34.95 and $199.95.
Under the ABG, ISS and NSS, Optus, Telstra, iinet and Internode all offered plans for satellite broadband. However, these plans stopped being sold as of December 2015, and many of these providers are not currently offering a Sky Muster service.
Now that the nbn Sky Muster satellite has been activated, you can get plans from providers like SkyMesh, activ8me, Ant Communications, BorderNET, Clear Networks, Harbour ISP, IPStar and reachnet. More providers are expected to announce Sky Muster services and pricing soon.
When nbn introduces long term services, ISS and NSS services will need to be migrated to the new satellite. Customers will be transitioned to the new satellite from 2 May 2016 to 31 December 2016.
Your current satellite service provider is responsible for migrating the service and will contact you over the next few months about switching to the faster new Sky Muster satellite service. Some providers may also migration queue that you can join by contacting them directly.