Sky Muster blasts into orbit

01 Oct, 2015 08:28 AM
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NBN's satellite Sky Muster launches from Guiana Space Centre. Photo: NBN / YouTube
The NBN long-term satellite service will be a game changer for many remote Australians
NBN's satellite Sky Muster launches from Guiana Space Centre. Photo: NBN / YouTube

NBN has successfully launched its first broadband satellite, Sky Muster, into orbit today.

Launching from the Guiana Space Centre in South America, the communications satellite is part of a plan to provide a better standard of internet to homes and businesses that can't get access to speedy fixed-line broadband services.

NBN chief executive officer Bill Morrow said the company's satellite service will provide dramatically improved internet to around 400,000 premises from mid-2016.

"The ability to video-conference friends and family, study courses online and visit doctors from your lounge room will all be possible in areas which have traditionally struggled to access basic internet services like online banking and shopping," Morrow said.

"Many homes and businesses in regional and rural Australia still rely on dial-up level speeds and have little or no access to a commercial broadband service — this satellite will help to close the divide and ensure no-one gets left behind."

New Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said in a statement that the launch was a huge achievement for NBN.

"The NBN long-term satellite service will be a game changer for many remote Australians, offering broadband services at ADSL2 comparable speeds for the first time", he said.

If everything goes to plan, the long-term satellite service will deliver download speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of 5 Mbps to eligible rural and remote premises, with a total capacity of 135 gigabits per second (Gbps) compared to only 4 Gbps on the current interim satellite service.

One-hundred-and-one "spot beams" will cover the nation's vast geography — including faraway places like Macquarie Island — to deliver "the quality at least that people are getting in the city", NBN space systems manager Julia Dickinson recently told Fairfax Media.

Sky Muster, which was named by students in the outback who stand to benefit from the interim satellite service, is the first of two satellites NBN will launch as part of a plan originally conceived in 2012 under the former Labor government.

At the time, now Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was vocally opposed to the idea, calling it a "Rolls-Royce" communications system.

"There's no question I was very critical of the proposal for government to build two satellites for the national broadband network," Turnbull told Fairfax Media in August after embracing the plan as the government's communications minister.

"[The] reason for my criticism was not that satellites are a bad idea; simply they — [the then Labor government] — would have been, in my view, better off contracting with the private sector to provide those services."

In a statement that has since been removed from his website, Turnbull had said: "There is enough capacity on private satellites already in orbit or scheduled for launch for the NBN to deliver broadband to the 200,000 or so premises in remote Australia without building its own".

Labor's Jason Clare said Australians were "very lucky" contracts were signed before Labor lost power.

"I think the model we chose is the right one and in his heart of hearts Turnbull knows this is the right one too," Clare told Fairfax in August.

with Hannah Francis

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