Users of the National Broadband Network’s Sky Muster satellite service are set to receive a welcome increase on their data quotas, with NBN announcing that from October, it will be doubling the monthly wholesale data limit available to retailers, and increasing “average peak download” limits on satellite plans by up to half.
Plans on Sky Muster are broken down into a peak period quota to be used between 7am and 1am, and an off-peak component. NBN also enforces a Fair Use Policy that currently caps most customers from using more than 150GB per month, with 75GB as the peak download cap, and 150GB being the total download limit.
The company said it was able to boost the download limits through efficiencies allowing the satellite service to handle more capacity.
“Late last year we made the decision to re-purpose our second satellite, previously slated as a dormant backup service to actively share the load in delivering more data to customers on the Sky Muster service,” NBN CEO Bill Morrow said in a statement.
“After spending the last year reviewing and testing the capabilities of the service, we are now comfortable that we have the capacity to offer increased data packages to retailers.”
Last month, the Labor party called for an independent review of the satellite service citing installation issues, data caps, outages, and a lack of transparency between NBN and its retail service providers.
Shadow Regional Communications Minister Stephen Jones called the deployment of Sky Muster “nothing short of abysmal”, claiming that under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, more premises have been shifted onto satellite connectivity.
“To their surprise and dismay, many more customers in outer metropolitan areas and outer regional centres are now finding themselves being allocated to Sky Muster for their NBN services, whereas previously under Labor’s NBN plan they were allocated FttP or fixed-wireless,” he said.
In Tuesday’s announcement, Morrow said NBN had listened to feedback from industry and the community, and that it was a “step in the right direction”.
“We will continue to optimise the pricing model and data plans of the Sky Muster service with further offerings on business and education services expected to be available in the next 12-18 months,” Morrow said.
Earlier this month at Senate Estimates, Morrow said NBN was considering using a third satellite.
“We will look at enhancing the existing technology with the two satellites that are up there today; we will look at a third satellite to see if that’s feasible; we will look at other satellites that are third party that will be up in the sky that maybe we can leverage those satellites to get more capacity; we will look at getting some other towers to relieve the congestion of the satellite beams that are coming down,” he said.
“There’s nothing that is sacred here. We are looking at anything and everything that might be feasible to offer more capacity.”
The pair of KA-band satellites operated by NBN were labelled as unnecessary “Rolls-Royce” satellites by then-opposition communications spokesperson Turnbull, who has since revised his opinion to “world class”.
Under NBN’s 2017 Corporate Plan, between 200,000 and 250,000 premises will receive a satellite connection, although 400,000 premises are eligible.