NBN Co to bump satellite capacity, implement 'fair use' policy

Turnbull reveals measures to relieve capacity constraints, allow new customers

Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced that NBN Co will bump capacity on the Interim Satellite Service. "[A]t the cost of $18.4 million the NBN Co will upgrade the current capacity to all users on the satellite service by one third," the minister said in question time today.

The boost will increase capacity from 30 kilobits per second per user to 40 kilobits per second, a spokesperson for the minister said.

In addition, NBN Co will implement "a new, stringent fair use policy to ensure a minority of very heavy users cannot crowd out the majority," Turnbull said.

"The NBN Co's trial of these changes demonstrate that even in busy periods, families will be able to answer their emails, surf the web, do their banking, see their kids complete their homework," the minister said.

A spokesperson for the minister said that NBN Co will introduce a tool to monitor how much capacity each retail service provider on the satellite is using so they can't "game" each other as well as introduce enhanced reporting to identify users taking up abnormal amounts of capacity.

The minister described the Interim Satellite Service as a "train wreck."

"The 45,000 unhappy current customers are costing the taxpayers of this nation $7300 each in direct subsidy. That is nearly three times the level of the old Howard era Australian Broadband Guarantee subsidy and for a much worse service," Turnbull told parliament.

"It will not be as fast as the speeds promised but never delivered by Labor but it will be broadband and much higher and certainly not anywhere near the anaemic dial up speeds experienced at present."

"We are also working on additional measures to provide new services so that at least some of those — about 9000 in total — who have not been able to get on will be able to do so and we'll have more to say about that in coming days when the arrangements are complete," the minister said.

The capacity constraints of the Interim Satellite Service led to iiNet last year ceasing to sell its top tier satellite plan and in November cease signing up customers to the service altogether. In January NBN Co stopped taking new orders for the service.

"Capacity has been reached on the Interim Satellite Service and it is not possible to register for, or order, a new service," a notice still posted on the NBN Co website still states.

"Registrations for services over the Interim Satellite Service have now closed and no further registrations can be accepted."

"This is very good news for ISS users who have been complaining for some time about capacity issues," Australian Communications Consumer Action Network CEO, Teresa Corbin, said.

"Some remote consumers have said that the speed has been slow even when it’s not school holidays, making it really hard for people to do schoolwork and conduct business."

An NBN Co spokesperson said extra capacity will be added to the ISS in May.

NBN Co's Long Term Satellite Service, based on its own satellites, is due to begin in 2015. In February the government-owned company revealed that Optus had won a five-year contract that covers satellite tracking, telemetry and control services.

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