NBN rollout of enhanced satellite service gets approval from rural and remote customers

Max Blenkin

The National Broadband Network (NBN) doesn’t often receive a good press, but its enhanced satellite service has just received a big thumbs up from farmers.

National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said the enhanced service provided through NBN Co’s Sky Muster Plus product was a game changer for families and small businesses that relied on the Sky Muster services for their internet.

That was a direct result of the advocacy of the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC), he said.

“Sky Muster Plus will mean essential internet uses, such as browsing, banking, email and software updates are exempt from monthly data allowances,” he said.

“As a result, when those data allowances have been exceeded, wholesale download speeds for regular web activities like accessing emails or internet banking won’t be slowed down – meaning business can go on and residents stay connected.


“This is a fantastic development that reflects NBN Co’s willingness to take on board, and respond to, customer needs.”

The NBN Co Sky Muster satellite internet service is available to customers where standard cable services aren’t available, mostly in rural and remote areas and offshore territories such as Christmas and Lord Howe Islands.


The service is provided by a pair of satellites, Sky Muster I launched in 2015 and Sky Muster II launched in 2016. These were conceived by the former Labor government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard as part of the original National Broadband Network.

Because satellite capacity is limited, Sky Muster services were metered, with quotas for peak and off-peak usage, with speeds slowed to a crawl once the monthly quota was exceeded. This makes them quite different to standard NBN internet plans, which allow unlimited data usage.

NBN Co satellite broadband services, like all its services, are marketed through a range of internet service providers.

To try out the new capability, NBN Co conducted a trial of the new product with a small number of customers from June to August.

One who made the switch to Sky Muster Plus during the trial was RRRCC memberKristy Sparrow, co-founder of Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia.

“Our experience with Sky Muster Plus has been very positive, with about 37 per cent of our data usage being unmetered during the trial,” she said.

“We regularly had speed bursts of up to 50 mbps and enjoyed being able to do essential internet tasks, such as banking and emails, when we were shaped on our metered data usage.

“Sky Muster Pus will not be suitable for all users, depending on your browsing habits. However, it is certainly a step in the right direction to improve connectivity options for rural and remote residents.”

Since it was formed in 2017, the RRRCC has been calling for data allowances to reflect the reality of remote area internet usage.

Those using Sky Muster customers were most likely to have no reliable alternative and often needed broadband for multiple businesses from their premises, for education of children and for use by employees.

“We are delighted that the NBN Co has listened and worked closely with the RRRCC to develop a practical solution in Sky Muster Plus, and we look forward to the product being made available to Sky Muster customers across the country,” Ms Sparrow said.

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