If you’re living or working in a remote part of the vast Australian continent – or on nearby lands like Norfolk and Christmas Islands – getting access to reliable broadband at a decent speed has been next to impossible, especially if you’re so far off the beaten track that you don’t even have a fixed line telephone service to attempt an ADSL connection with.
When the NBN was originally planned, the idea was always to give all Australians access to a decent broadband connection, and a key element of that was satellite. Two separate satellites were launched in 2015 and 2016 with the sole purpose of delivering the NBN across Australia to anyone who needs it.
It may seem like an incredibly ambitious concept – the sheer cost of putting two satellites into orbit certainly didn’t make it cheap. But that original idea of the NBN – to bring fast broadband access to all Australians, no matter how remote – needed this satellite coverage to make sure nobody missed out just because of where they chose to live.
The two satellites share a name thought up by school students that will benefit from them the most – “Sky Muster”.
Broadband from Space?
The idea of connecting to a satellite for your broadband might seem weird – but technology has come a long way in recent years, and satellites are more capable than ever before. Foxtel’s satellite is sending pristine 4K video back to Earth 24 hours a day, a stream of data just like a broadband connection. There is one downside – because of the distance, satellite broadband operates with a fairly high built-in delay, known as “latency”. That means things that require near-real-time responses, such as online video games, aren’t an ideal use of the service. But for most stuff – everything from web browsing to streaming Netflix – satellite does the job incredibly well, even if you’re hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town.
How Do You Get Satellite NBN Connected?
Because the NBN’s satellite service is designed for regional and remote customers, you won’t find a huge amount of internet providers offering it as an option – mainly just for the reason that most of their customers don’t need it. But one company that has spent a lot of effort on providing broadband and phone services to regional Australia is also the one that’s owned by the regional communities it serves – Southern Phone.
To get set up with satellite NBN, all you need to do is get in touch with the Southern Phone team and have them check on whether it’s the best option for you. If you’re in a remote area, in most cases it will be – though many larger regional communities are served by fixed wireless connections instead, which runs from a dedicated land-based tower rather than satellite.
Once you apply for your connection, you’ll be given a date when an NBN technician will show up to install the necessary hardware. Even if you already have a satellite dish on your home or business, you’ll need a separate one for the NBN satellite service – it uses a newer, more advanced wavelength that existing satellite dishes cannot pick up.
The technician will install the dish either on the side or roof of your premises, and a special modem known as an NTD inside. That’s the box you’ll connect to for your broadband.
The good news is, by the way, that there’s no charge for this rather expensive equipment. It remains the property of the NBN, but you won’t have to fork out the thousands of dollars it would otherwise have cost to buy it and have it installed.
NBN Broadband Plans
- Up to 9Mbps Basic Evening
- Unlimited Data
- NBN 12™ Fixed Line
- Up to 40Mbps Standard Plus Evening
- Unlimited Data
- NBN 50™ Fixed Line
What Plans Are Available?
With NBN satellite you get a choice between
There are no unlimited-data plans on NBN satellite – that’s necessary to make sure it’s got enough capacity for all users. Instead, you can go for data limits ranging from 70GB to 300GB per month, with that limit split between peak (7am to 1am) and off-peak hours. So the 180GB plan, for example, will give you 60GB of peak data, and 120GB off-peak. With off-peak restricted to the small hours of the morning and a small six-hour window, most people will be best off picking a plan based on peak allowance, and in that respect the lower cost plans can represent great value.
If you’re planning on streaming HD video, though, be aware that once you go over your limit, you won’t get billed extra, but your connection will be slowed for the rest of the month to 128Kbps – that’s a glacially slow 0.1 Mbps!
Standard NBN Options
Since NBN continues to widen its reach throughout Australia, some of the country’s best broadband plans are worth noting. Providers like Mate, Barefoot, Aussie Broadband, Southern Phone offer unlimited NBN plans without breaking the bank. Barefoot and Mate both have unlimited NBN selections (starting from $59/month) to offer backed by their no lock-in contract and $0 setup fees appeal.
Aussie Broadband allows their customers to build their own plans, letting you choose your preferred data and speed to specifically meet your needs. Southern Phone, apart from providing Satellite NBN, also stores competitive unlimited NBN plans from $60/month with no lock-in contract. Tangerine and Sumo’s offerings consist of unlimited plans with no minimum term at around the same price range. You can take advantage of some deals to get monthly discounts as well.
For hefty inclusions, you can count on Telstra to give you exactly that. Their NBN plans start from $69/month for 100GB and $89/month for unlimited data. You can choose to go casual with no lock-in contract or stick around with the 24-month plan. Their unlimited data + streaming is also a solid option — it includes Telstra TV and 24-month free Foxtel Now subscription.
Is Satellite Worth It Compared to Other NBN Options?
In general, if you have access to any other form of NBN, it’s likely to be faster than satellite and possibly cheaper as well. But then, NBN satellite isn’t meant to be a choice – rather, it’s a service that’s there for people that otherwise wouldn’t have access to broadband at all. And while it’s possibly of some use in less remote areas – for those with heavily congested fixed wireless services, for example, or no other NBN options on the horizon – for most people, other methods of accessing the NBN will be preferable.
For those living in the far-flung corners of this vast continent, though, the NBN’s Sky Muster satellite service brings real, reliable broadband to you no matter where you are – and at an affordable price.