NBN Co to boost rural business connectivity

NBN Co readies a new wholesale product for remote and rural businesses via the Sky Muster™ satellite.

At NBN Co, we’re passionate about helping to bridge the digital divide. We understand the impact providing access to fast broadband for businesses may have on opening up new market opportunities, driving innovation and increasing productivity.

Our team is currently gearing up to launch a new wholesale business-grade satellite service for remote and rural Australia in areas where, previously there may have been limited or no coverage and no option of a fixed line service.

In February this year, we announced a deal with global remote communication and IT solutions company, Speedcast Managed Services, to help us deliver a wholesale business service over the Sky Muster™ satellite service to market.

The nbn™ Business Satellite Service will be complementary to our existing retail Sky Muster™ satellite service which, until now, has been primarily intended for residential use.

The development is part of our ongoing commitment to evolve our wholesale product suite to better meet the broadband needs of Australians.

It follows additional work we did to engineer the network to allow phone and internet providers to double the previously available total and peak wholesale data limits on the residential Sky Muster™ satellite service.

What will the product look like?

After initial industry consultation, I’m excited to announce the first updates about the construct of the wholesale product and how this new offering is expected to benefit businesses in rural and remote Australia.

The service has two broad wholesale category product offerings for phone and internet providers:

  • Bandwidth services – designed for businesses with more complex networking requirements including wide-area network connections to multiple locations. 
  • Broadband internet – designed for businesses requiring more broadband data, higher speeds and business-grade service levels.  

nbn™ Business Satellite Service products have been developed to allow easy reseller access to the services and to provide a high degree of flexibility to minimise the effort required to connect their end customers.

These wholesale plans are being designed to be customisable with options for voice and mobility, and varying levels of support, depending on end user needs. This can range from 24/7 support to a full service management suite, to a more limited offering depending on the criticality of the service.

How will we deliver the service?

Our Sky Muster™ satellite ground station in Bourke, NSW.

Underutilised spectrum from the Sky Muster™ satellite service will be allocated to the nbn™ Business Satellite Service – we anticipate using less than 15 per cent of our overall capacity on the access technology.

We will use this spectrum and parts of the Sky Muster™ satellite infrastructure such as our nine ground stations to support the service.

The nbn™ Business Satellite Service will initially only be made available to customers where there is spare capacity to deliver the service – these typically sit within remote locations away from the eastern seaboard where we have higher take-up of our existing Sky Muster™ product.

We are also designing the architecture to allow internet providers flexibility in connection options so they can design products and services to suit their customers.

How can it help rural and remote businesses?

The nbn™ Business Satellite Service is set to support remote and rural businesses by helping to support online applications such as video conferencing and cloud-based services.

It will be crucial for the oil, mining and gas industries, as it has the capacity to connect in non-addressable remote locations where a number of these sectors run their remote offices.

For farmers in rural Australia, this service is being developed to help enable them to better leverage new technologies such as remote monitoring, video conferencing and livestock tracking devices to save time and potentially reduce operational costs.

It’s also being designed to help businesses with online storage and backup network solutions, as well as provide critical communications support to disaster-recovery operations.

What’s the future demand for business-grade satellite?

The launch of this new satellite service will help to ensure we are prepared for future growth and demand, with new research we commissioned by Telsyte revealing Australian businesses using satellite services are expected to grow by more than 30 per cent by 2021.

The research indicates businesses using satellite technology reported the most common-use cases for a business-grade service would be to enhance cloud-based capabilities, better serve crew welfare and data demand, as well as reduce overheads by introducing automated surveillance and monitoring.

It also showed satellite connectivity is expected to help businesses embrace Internet of Things (IoT), with the number of IoT devices used by remote businesses expected to more than double in four years from 39 to 82 devices by 2021.

When will it be available?

The nbn™ Business Satellite Service is undergoing extensive consultation of wholesale product and pricing in the next few months followed by subsequent service trials in late 2018. We expect to launch the new wholesale product in the first half of 2019.