NBN rolls out 147 fixes for Sky Muster service

Sky Muster II now fully operational, NBN announces

NBN’s Sky Muster satellite service is back on track after experiencing a wave of performance problems beginning in September, NBN’s chief customer officer, John Simon, told a conference in Sydney today.

Sky Muster II is now fully operational and taking orders to provide services in regional Australia, the NBN executive told Communications Day’s Australasia Satellite Forum.

The problems blighting the service began when it hit around 25,000 users, Simon said. Part of the root cause is the lack of international experience with building a satellite-based Layer 2 Ethernet bitstream service, he said.

The problems ran through until March this year, with NBN ultimately implementing 147 individual network fixes and optimisations.

As a result the average weekly incident rate fell by 91 per cent between September and April and is now comparable to the other technologies used to connect households to the National Broadband Network.

Simon also acknowledged frustration among end users with the installation process for Sky Muster services.

“We experienced enormous demand from regional Australia and experienced some early implementation challenges leading to missed appointments and connection issues,” Simon said.

This was compounded by the migration of users from NBN’s interim service to Sky Muster.

Beginning in September NBN embarked on a “holistic improvement program” covering both in-field operations improvements and network improvements.

The NBN executive said that the company was aware of international discussions about potentially delivering faster satellite services, including up to 100 megabits per second.

“From an NBN perspective, we are aware of the potential of these higher speed that can be achieved,” Simon said. “We’re certainly determined to keep up with that.” He added a note of caution though: “Although with speed comes the question of capacity, so we’ve got to balance that carefully.”

“We’re actually looking at how we may … enhance the speed tiers on Sky Muster above its current 25 megabit down / 5 up,” he said.

NBN is this quarter conducting another review of its satellite service looking at the potential for further optimisations – potentially allowing a revamp of the fair use policy that governs use of the service.

That policy currently states that an end user’s data usage must not exceed 150GB in a four-week period, and peak hour usage must not exceed 75GB in a four week period.

Simon said NBN is “not sure just yet” what a revision of the fair use policy would ultimately look like.

“We’re optimistic we’ll be able to get more out of the capacity,” he told the conference. “This will enable us to extend or expand data allowance for end users.”

“With Sky Muster II services now being in operation the network is in much-improved shape and we’re very eager to see what the future will hold.”

Labor calls for Sky Muster review

An independent review should scruitinise the NBN satellite service, Labor’s regional telecommunications spokesperson, Stephen Jones, said today.

Jones said the service had suffered from installation problems, frequent outages and a lack of transparency.

“To be conducted at an arm’s length from the government, the review would seek to address significant concerns raised by consumers, retail service providers and engineering experts about the deployment of the satellite service,” Jones said.

“I am also calling for a new approach to the current ‘fair use’ policy to see an increase in data for customers – particularly in the under-utilised satellite areas of very remote Australia.

“A fair use policy is a reasonable approach to take at the commencement of a new service but I don’t believe that all of the settings are right.

“Many premises in remote Australia not only have a need for data to cover residential needs but also to operate a business.”

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