NBN says Sky Muster will mean bigger data allowances – but will it really deliver?

Beef Central, 14/12/2015

Bush broadband users have this morning had their first glimpse of what sort of internet speeds and data allowances they can expect when the NBN’s new Sky Muster satellite launches in April next year.

The new service promises bigger data allowances and faster speeds than what many rural internet users currently have, but that is a pretty low bar too improve upon, given the almost non-existent speeds and very low data limits many rural internet users currently endure. that is not saying a lot, given the poor speeds and data limitations many is currently available for many country internet users, but that is of course based on a coming from such a low base will be better and faster than what is currently available The result is is an  somewhat underwhelming according to the spokespeople for an online community of country internet users.

At least one community group that follows rural internet services closely has run the ruler over this morning’s announcement and has been left underwhelmed by the result (see below).

Sky Muster will deliver more capacity than originally planned: NBN Co

An NBN Co statement today said rural and regional areas are set to benefit “from some of the world’s best commercial satellite broadband” when it launches its “revolutionary Sky Muster™ service” in the second quarter of next year (expected to be April).

The NBN Co says it will be able to provide wholesale plans with “significantly more capacity than originally planned” when Sky Muster comes online, thanks to some innovative work to optimise its network.

The company has this morning released details of the wholesale plans it intends to offer and details of its “Fair Use Policy” that will shape retail services for rural users.

Better speeds should be one feature of the new satellite. Sky Muster should, according to NBN Co, deliver wholesale speeds of up to 25/5Mbps. If achieved this would be a big improvement on the 4/2Mbps speeds currently being reported by many bush broadband users on the Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia Facebook community site (more on this community below).

NBN Co said entry-level wholesale plans will enable Retail Service Providers to offer up to 75GB per month during peak periods (“Peak periods” are practically most of the time under the policy, with “off-peak” defined as between 1am-7am).

Higher-value wholesale options could allow usage plans of up to 150GB per month.

How much web activity will 75KB allow?

“As a guide, a 75GB plan could allow more than 7 hours per day of standard definition video streaming,” the NBN announcement explains.

“These plans would allow a typical user to undertake a wide variety of online activities each day including streaming ABC iView or radio, checking on the weather forecast or stock prices, online banking and downloading movies.”

The company said it will also consult with industry on plans to provide a separate 50GB monthly data allowance to eligible distance education students. “Further trials and developments are planned for dedicated education video services over the coming year”.

Included in this morning’s NBN Co statement was a comment from federal Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (ICPA) president Wendy Hick:

“Children living in rural and remote locations have long suffered poor access to broadband. The impact on schooling has caused serious concerns amongst users. Today’s announcement is the result of collaboration between NBN, government and organisations such as ICPA working together to address the challenges presented. This should allow Australian children to keep up to speed with their education, no matter where they live.”

NBN executive general Manager of Fixed Wireless and Satellite Products, Gavin Williams said the new generation of satellite broadband made possible with Sky Muster service would be a “game changer for rural telecommunications”.

“We are freeing up capacity by rolling out more fixed wireless and fixed line broadband and using the unallocated capacity of the second satellite.

“We have worked hard to deliver vastly improved speeds and data allowances compared to services over the interim service, while ensuring we maintain a good quality experience for all satellite users. The satellite capacity is shared between users and there are limits in place so available capacity is managed carefully and fairly.”

However not everyone shares that degree of optimism.

Kirsty Sparrow is an administrator of the Facebook-based community “Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia BIRRR”, which now has over 5000 members.

In a media statement issued in response to this morning’s NBN announcement, Ms Sparrow said did not quite get the “widespread soaking of data” they were hoping for from this morning’s Sky Muster announcement.

Instead, after coping for years with slow internet speeds and restrictive data limits, all they got was a “a light shower”.

“While this announcement is better than we currently have, it by no means covers what data needs could be in a year, two years time, let alone another decade,” Ms Sparrow said.

She noted that the maximum NBN Co deal of 150GB would see users speed-limited if they exceed that limit in any four-week rolling period – which is not necessarily their billing period. Also, the NBN’s Fair Use Policy contains severe penalties for the service provider if a user goes over the 150Gb in any four-week period. Further, NBN Co’s fair use policy states that 75GB or more of data usage during peak hours (off-peak is listed at 1am to 7am) in any four week period constituted a breach.

Also, the NBN’s Fair Use Policy contains severe penalties for the service provider if a user goes over the 150Gb in any four-week period. Further, NBN Co’s fair use policy states that 75GB or more of data usage during peak hours (off-peak is listed at 1am to 7am) in any four week period would also constitute a breach of the policy.

These restrictions would impact on the pricing of plans as no provider wanted plan limits breached.

“As we take on feedback from people across Australia at the BIRRR Facebook group, members are very concerned that the new limits – while an improvement on current restrictive plans – will not address decent long-term service across Australia, as business becomes more and more internet and cloud based.”

“Everything is app or internet dependant these days – from mapping and management of properties, to tracing cattle movements and payment of bills and accounting needs. That’s not even taking into innovative farming technology, social, health or education requirements”.

Ms Sparrow said the BIRRR team felt the off-peak hours listed at 1am-7am were virtually unusable and ass such that data would not be able to be accessed.

“We hope that NBN Co and providers continue to investigate innovative ways to use off peak data allowances,” she said.

BIRRR was however pleased to see details of a second port for distance education users released. Details are still to be confirmed however the port is expected to provide distance education students with a 50GB per student data allowance (to a maximum of 150GB per port), as well as expected priority of access to Skymuster.

“All in all, whilst there has been some improvements, we are still going to have inequitable service and costs when compared to metropolitan areas,” Ms Sparrow said.

“Our main concern at BIRRR is that data usage is doubling at a rapid rate and plans are not keeping up.”

  • The BIRRR community is currently surveying members to assess rural internet conditions – visit the group’s website to participate



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