Could Low Earth Orbit Satellites Be the Solution to NBN’s Sky Muster Issues?

Could Low Earth Orbit Satellites Be the Solution to NBN’s Sky Muster Issues?

The company responsible for the rollout of the NBN has announced that it’s getting interested in Low Earth Orbit satellites, or LEOs.

Back in May, when NBN Co faced Senate Estimates, the increasingly competitive market that is satellite internet was brought up at length, with questioning centred mostly on what NBN was going to do to compete with the likes of Elon Musk’s Starlink. During questioning, NBN Co CEO Stephen Rue also let slip the words ‘Low Earth Orbit satellite’, with not much context added to it.

“There’s many options that we’re working through at this stage, I’ve no plans at this stage – I don’t have a plan I can tell you exactly at this stage – but we’re looking at all options on the table,” Rue said.

But today, we’ve got a little more context. NBN Co has announced that it’s exploring LEOs as a potential connectivity solution.

NBN has released a ‘closed request for information’ to LEO providers, to understand the services that are provided. The company is hoping to further develop its satellite footprint, and figure out how it could use LEOs to service its user base with internet plans. The company wants to delve into pricing certainty, options for local support, and network and data sovereignty (to allow NBN providers access to the technology).

“We are always thinking about how best to meet the evolving broadband needs of the households and businesses across Australia, including those in our satellite footprint,” NBN Co executive general manager for Fixed Wireless and Satellite Jason Ashton said.

“It is important that we properly evaluate the potential of emerging technologies, including low earth orbit satellites, to improve our network and fulfil our mission to lift the digital capability of Australia.”

For a bit of context, NBN Co already operates a satellite called Sky Muster, which services homes and businesses in regional and rural Australia.

Whether or not this announcement will lead to either an NBN Co-owned array of LEO satellites, or a business agreement between NBN Co and a LEO provider, such as Starlink, time will tell. With whatever NBN Co ends up planning when it comes to LEOs, we’re hoping that it results in faster speeds than Sky Muster at lower costs than Starlink. NBN Co said that the Sky Muster satellite will remain a critical part of the network and that it will continue to enhance the service.

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