nbn™ technology 101: What is Sky Muster™?
The Sky Muster™ II satellite being prepared for launch
The nbn™ network uses a mix of access technologies, which includes several different types of fixed line connections, as well as nbn™ Fixed Wireless and Sky Muster™ satellite connections.
In terms of Australia’s regional and remote areas, both Fixed Wireless and Sky Muster™ satellite nbn™ network connections are typically used to get end users online.
Here’s how the Sky Muster™ satellite service works.
What is the Sky Muster™ satellite service?
The Sky Muster™ satellite service was designed to provide access to affordable and fast internet to rural, regional, remote and offshore Australians where other fixed line access technologies are not available.
The service is comprised of two satellites dedicated to fast internet connectivity, and is now available to more than 400,000 premises in these areas.
The Sky Muster™ and Sky Muster™ II satellites are designed to cover mainland Australia and Tasmania, as well as offshore territories including Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Island, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, and Macquarie Island.
Both Sky Muster™ satellites are fully operational in geostationary orbit, roughly 36,000km above the equator and sharing the load of providing nbn™ network connectivity to homes and businesses in eligible regional and remote areas.
There are currently two wholesale Sky Muster™ satellite speed tiers available for Retail Service Providers (RSPs): nbn™ 25 and nbn™ 12.
It is important to remember that nbn is a wholesaler: we sell network access to RSPs, who in turn sell their products on to the end user.
Sky Muster™ satellite end users can discuss speed options with their preferred RSP to pick the right plan to suit their needs. Retail Plans usually have both a speed and monthly data usage component.
How does Sky Muster™ work?
nbn™ Sky Muster™ ground station near Bourke.
The two Sky Muster™ satellites use 101 electromagnetic Ka-band “spot beams” (like focused ‘torch beams’), which are designed to provide satellite network coverage for mainland Australia, Tasmania, and certain offshore islands.
Using these “spot beams”, the two satellites connect to the nbn™ satellite dishes installed on elligible homes and businesses, and to a network of 10 ground stations. In essence, the satellites act as a bridge between the ground stations and the elligible home or business.
The ground station then connects through the nbn™ network to the RSP’s network, who in turn connect their end users to the internet.
These ground stations have been built in specific locations around Australia with the aim to maximise the capacity and reliability of the Sky Muster™ service in eligible areas.
This combination of Sky Muster™ satellites, ground stations, and nbn™ satellite dishes on end user premises is designed to result in better access to internet connectivity than these areas have previously experienced. In some cases, areas connected to the Sky Muster™ satellite service had no internet at all.
nbn™ Fixed Wireless and Sky Muster™ satellite services have been part of the nbn™ rollout plan from the beginning as the most viable technologies to help bridge the digital divide between metropolitan and remote areas.
Because of this, the Sky Muster™ service has a Fair Usage Policy applicable to RSPs, like other satellite services, to ensure all RSPs manage their connected end users to get their fair share of the finite capacity and a fair go with their Sky Muster™ satellite service, particularly during peak internet usage times.
This being said, the Sky Muster™ satellite service is still a world-leader of satellite broadband.
Sky Muster™ satellites vs other satellite connections
The Sky Muster™ satellites have been built to be radically different to any other satellite internet service available in Australia prior to its launch.
Other satellites, such as the lower capacity third-party satellites utilised for the Interim Satellite Service (ISS), weren’t exclusively dedicated to providing access to high-speed internet to Australia and its Islands and territories. They were designed to serve a number of differing objectives and had limited geographical reach.
The Sky Muster™ satellites, on the other hand, compared to other satellite services, were designed to provide high-speed internet to rural, remote, outback, and offshore Australians.
The Sky Muster™ satellite service as a whole makes use of newer technology and also has around 30 times the total capacity of the previously-used ISS.
From launch to today
nbn acknowledges that end users experienced Sky Muster™ service issues shortly after the service went live. This is why we made necessary system updates and process changes.
We’ve worked with our delivery partners over the last nine months to implement a performance-improvement plan.
This plan covered factors including network management system software upgrades to optimise the service, as well as the overhauling of the equipment-installation process.
All of this has resulted in a better-serving Sky Muster™ service.
Originally, the plan was to use Sky Muster™ II more as a backup for the first Sky Muster™ satellite. nbn has now repurposed Sky Muster™ II to share the load with the original Sky Muster™ satellite.
This means much-needed capacity is now available to RSPs and in turn, eligible rural, remote, outback, and offshore Australians connecting to nbn™ services via a Sky Muster™ satellite service.
More than 70,000 end-user premises are now connected to the Sky Muster™ service, which includes the migration of some 35,000 users from ISS services which has now been decommissioned.
Getting on to a Sky Muster™ satellite service
After checking with the nbn™ website for eligibility, anyone who is eligible and wishes to sign up to a Sky Muster™ satellite service will need to talk to their preferred RSP.
Sky Muster™ installation process
After an end user purchases an nbn™ network plan from a preferred RSP, an approved nbn™ installer must visit the premises.
The installation usually takes between two to four hours, but can vary based on a number of factors.
In most cases, nbn aims to complete installation for standard Sky Muster™-compatible premises within 20 business days of a service order request from a preferred RSP. More isolated regions may take longer.
If an end user requires installation in a specific way, this should be discussed with the nbn™ installer, as it may incur delays.
During the installation process, the installer recommends an installation point for the nbn™ satellite dish based on physical characteristics, such as line of sight to the relevant Sky Muster™ satellite.
This nbn™ satellite dish is usually installed on the roof, gutter, or wall of an end user’s premises.
The installer then feeds through a data connecting cable from the nbn™ satellite dish to the inside of the premises.
This cable is then connected to an nbn™-supplied modem (also called an ‘indoor unit’), which is often mounted on an internal wall of an end user’s premises.
Sky Muster™ during a blackout
If there is a power outage at your premises, restoring power with an alternative power option will usually enable you to reconnect to the Sky Muster™ service. However, if one of the nbn™ Sky Muster™ satellite ground stations is also experiencing power loss, there may be further delays in reconnecting your service.
When ordering a Sky Muster™ satellite service, have a discussion with your current service provider about your existing landline. If you have an existing copper phone line, it is important to consider keeping it in service for emergency communications, especially if you don’t have good mobile phone coverage at your home or business.
Local network considerations
If an end user connected to the Sky Muster™ satellite service wants to share their internet connection locally (within or around their house, such as via wi-fi), they will need a router that’s compatible with the provided nbn™ equipment.
A compatible router may be provided by an end user’s preferred RSP.
For homes and businesses that require in-premises networking, these end users should speak with a preferred RSP prior to the installation date about this; it is not included as part of the nbn™ equipment installation.
Copper-line landline services
The existing copper line (or equivalent service) won’t be changed by installing equipment for the Sky Muster™ satellite service at an end user’s premises, nor does using the Sky Muster™ service prevent an end user from retaining terrestrial copper-based phone or internet services.
Rural, remote, outback, and offshore Australians can check the nbn™ website to see if a particular end-user premises is serviced by Fixed Wireless or Sky Muster™ connections as part of the nbn™ network.