Rural and remote school students and their families have welcomed the news that activities such as email, web surfing and critical software updates will no longer count towards monthly data allowances on the Sky Muster satellite broadband services.
Set to roll out in early 2019 after consultation with retail service providers on how to present the product to consumers, federal ICPA president, Wendy Hick said the lobby group was extremely encouraged by such a positive step from NBN Co.
The new wholesale plans will no longer count the use of monthly data allowance towards essential internet services such as internet banking and email, increasing the average data amount that can be used by a substantial amount.
This means when a user exhausts their monthly data allowance, wholesale download speeds will not be slowed down for regular web activities like accessing emails or internet banking.
Use of other web traffic, however, including streaming video and online gaming, will continue to be subject to monthly data allowances, with speeds being shaped if data limits are exceeded.
It will do this by introducing a layer three service, described as “clever software”, which can differentiate between uses.
The new product will also help deliver fast download speeds by providing access to a wholesale 25Mbps product that can now burst above 25Mbps wholesale speed when applications and network support allows.
ICPA has advocated for increased data levels and unmetering of essential education sites for rural and remote students for some time.
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Ms Hick has been a member of the NBN regional stakeholders roundtable, where she said improved data allowances for geographically isolated students had been discussed.
“This announcement will see primary, secondary, tertiary and boarding students with Sky Muster services at home able to participate,” she said. “Rural schools and students will stand to gain from this new option. It is also envisaged that services such as telehealth will benefit.”
NBN Co last year doubled the maximum monthly wholesale data limits on Sky Muster satellite services from 150GB to 300GB per month and also increased the average peak data allowance that phone and internet providers can offer to users by 50 per cent, from 30GB to 45GB.
NBN Co said its Sky Muster and fixed wireless networks, as well as the early prioritisation of the rollout in regional areas, were helping to close the digital divide between the city and the bush.
According to research released by the company earlier this year, the NBN access network helped create $450m in additional gross domestic product in regional Australia in 2017.
That figure is forecast to drive an additional $5.3bn in GDP in regional areas by the 2021 financial year.
NBN Co’s CEO Stephen Rue said the launch of the Sky Muster Plus product was another demonstration of their unwavering commitment to regional and rural Australians living in some of the most far-flung regions.
“We have been listening to feedback from consumers and industry on what we can do to improve customer experience on the NBN Sky Muster network.
“The new Sky Muster Plus product is designed to give regional and rural Australians peace of mind knowing that essential internet services, like emailing loved ones or accessing internet banking, should not slow down if their monthly data limit has been exceeded.
“Our team is also continuing to consult with industry on a number of additional wholesale product updates on the Sky Muster satellite service, including a regional enterprise service as well as additional applications to enable remote telehealth and distance education.”