NBN satellite launch may benefit grey nomads, too

Published: October 2, 2015
SKy Musetr satelleite NBN for grey nomads

A $500 million satellite which will dramatically improve internet access for people living in remote areas of Australia has been launched into space … and there is speculation that grey nomads could eventually benefit, too.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) says its 6.3 tonne Sky Muster satellite is already unfurling its solar panels and getting ready to take up its ‘orbital slot’ position before it begins rotating around Earth. From the middle of next year, it will be offering users download speeds of 25 megabits per second.

The NBN says the service will eventually cover 400,000 homes ranging from the city fringes to incredibly remote areas, as well as Australia’s offshore territories including Christmas, Cocos, Norfolk and Macquarie islands.

And the Australian Business Spectator reports that there has been some speculation that NBN Co is investigating the possibility of releasing mobile satellite broadband products aimed at connecting ships, aeroplanes … and potentially the ‘legion of grey ­nomads in their caravans across Australia’.

The publication says that launching these services would see NBN Co enter a space that has so far been the domain of private operators, but one that would provide an avenue for NBN Co to eke out a commercial gain from the most expensive segment of the overall network.

An NBN Co spokesman conceded that there were regular discussions on product types, but that the company would look to stick to its remit of providing broadband services to households.

While vastly improved internet speeds will no doubt be welcomed across the bush, the NBN has warned that download capacity on the network will not be unlimited and heavy users may have to pay more than their city counterparts. There will also be strict download limits.

It said the service was a finite resource and would “be carefully managed to ensure all users in rural and remote Australia get a fair go”.

  • Does the prospect of affordable internet access across the entire country excite you? Would it change the way you travel, and where you travel to?
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6 years ago

I have asked this question of Barnaby Joyce, my local member but have yet to receive a reply. You would think a company like NBNCO would jump at the chance to secure a large segment of touring australians. I suppose now we will have to look at an additional satellite dish on the roof, one for the TV and one for the computer.

Allan Jones
4 years ago
Reply to  KFT

I spent some time talking to NBN and eventually got to speak to a technician who told me that technically to have a dish on an RV was absolutely no problem, it was only a policy decision that is stopping the rollout of satellite NBN to RVs.

Robyn Davies
6 years ago

It is incredibly frustrating travelling in and through places that have little or no internet coverage. Our 4G Telstra Mobile Internet connection would not work even in town areas through central western NSW. Our phones were not a problem, just the internet device. Until Telstra develops a better coverage for internet, I also find their mobile broadband plans prohibitively expensive and limit customers to minimal data allowance. These days, 8g data is not enough when one is travelling and hoping to keep family informed and uploading photos etc. Telstra should be looking at plans that are economical for the grey nomad traveller

Wayne Seaton
5 years ago

I have recently asked the NBNCo about fitting to the van. The unit is small enough and we always have our satellite dish with us. The person that answered my email, was to put it bluntly, bloody rude. The answer was that mobile satellite was not being considered, as they require you to have a stationary dish, that cannot be moved. I don’t see the problem with aligning my dish to the NBN satellite.

Bob Grenith
5 years ago
Reply to  Wayne Seaton

Unfortunatly each Sat Connection is linked to one of the many beams from the satelight. If you were you were to cross into another beam then your modem would not be able to sync. The tech is being developed but not yet available.

5 years ago

Existing K band TV dishes are not suitable. Sky muster Ka band systems are fixed to one allocated beam from the satellite. They can not be used outside the footprint of that beam. If you could align the Ka band dish and its LNB/TX head to the satellite in another area then NBN Co could reassign your allocation. It is not something they plan to do. It would be expensive and would have allocated beams unduly misused. Eric. CMCA mem. and Communications engineer retired.

5 years ago
Reply to  Eric

Does that mean this type of service will never be available, Eric, or just not in the foreseeable future. I’m also a CMCA member and spend 7-8 months on the road often to remote destinations where normal modems don’t work. How come our phones work in some of these locations but not our modem? Are there more powerful modems available that can purchase say up to 25 Gig of data a month at a reasonable cost?

5 years ago

I can see many issues operating SkyMuster in a portable mode.
1. Switching spot beams. NBN would need some sort of automated system allowing the user to swap beams. You’d need to do this BEFORE entering a new beam area, otherwise, how would you contact them.
2. Dish alignment. This is a BIG one! Because this unit transmits to the satellite as well as receives, the alignment must be VERY precise. Especially the polarisation. This is sometimes called skew on sat tv dishes. This is done by rotating the unit at the focal point of the dish. If the polarisation/skew is not very precisely aligned, the unit can interfere with adjacent beams/transponders on the satellite, causing major problems with other users. For this reason alone, portable units will probably never be approved unless someone comes up with an automatic system (expensive).
3. To perform proper alignment, you’ll need a piece of equipment called a Transmit and Receive Integrated Assembly (TRIA). I have no idea how much they would cost but probably significant.
It would only take one person to perform the alignment poorly and cause problems for other users.
I have a portable satellite internet system from Australian Nomad Technologies which uses the Optus D1 satellite. This needs the same alignment procedure however, the supplied modem contains the alignment software. I was told when I purchased it, if I didn’t perform the aligned properly each time I set it up, Optus would cancel the service permanently! The service on Optus D1 uses a single beam that covers the entire mainland of Australia and New Zealand so no issues changing beams.
It’s way easier for NBN to say no to portable services.


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