Accessing the internet: Transitioning from the Interim Satellite Service

Thursday, 11 December 2014

As a member of the Broadband for the Bush Alliance (B4BA), the NRHA benefits from taking part in its monthly teleconferences. At the most recent meeting, Gavin Williams, General Manager – Fixed Wireless & Satellite with NBN Co., outlined plans for improved satellite service which will make a major contribution to closing the digital divide between remote and city areas.

NBN Co developed the Interim Satellite Service (ISS) to provide an improved service to regional and rural  Australians ahead of the rollout of the Long Term Satellite Service. Launched on 1 July 2011, the ISS reached capacity in December 2013. The network was upgraded for existing customers in July 2014 and NBN Co launched the NBN Co Satellite Support Scheme in August 2014 to provide services to additional end users.

The good news is that two state-of-the-art satellites are being built for the long term satellite service, and the first of them will be launched in mid-2015 with services to available in early 2016. Each of them weighs 6.5 tons and can handle 50 Gbps, meaning that there will be redundant capacity in the new system.

The footprint for the new satellite service will include the whole of mainland Australia, with spot beams on places as small and remote as Macquarie Island. Ten ground stations have been built with at least two large dishes at each and their own solar power supply. The service will be up to 25Mbps down and 5Mbps up – four times faster than ISS.

NBN Co will wholesale the service at a uniform national price, with retail service providers encouraged to innovate in terms of what they offer. (A product consultation has been released to industry on these matters.) Gavin Williams spoke of "a quality service to those who want a quality Internet experience".

The Satellite service will provide broadband to remote communities who are without other connectivity options, with a key imperative being to enable better access to health services. A first priority for some retailers is "great services to premises", rather than to businesses.

The B4BA meeting was then addressed by Laurie Ward of Touchpoint media. In conjunction with three Queensland Government Departments and local authorities in the Goondiwindi  area, Touchpoint media is launching an online service hub supplying local news, information on jobs, and an events calendar to help make businesses in rural and remote communities in the area more sustainable.