news The NBN company has proposed setting a series of caps on usage of its two satellites, with entry-level plans featuring a cap of 75GB per month and higher level plans offering between 100GB and 150GB per month.
The company currently offers what it calls its Interim Satellite Service (ISS), which is a platform where the NBN company rents capacity on the satellites of Optus. However, the company recently launched the first of two of its own satellites, which will come online in mid-2016 and dramatically upgrade the satellite broadband experience of Australians in remote and regional areas. This will be known as the Long-Term Satellite Service (LTSS).
The current ISS plans offer a maximum of 50GB quota per month and are already fully saturated, frustrating many satellite broadband users in remote Australia.
In a series of documents released by the NBN company over the past week, it revealed that the caps would not be significantly growing under its LTSS service. As first revealed by NBN blogger Kenneth Tsang, the NBN company has proposed a fair use policy where satellite users would be able to download only up to 150GB of data per month over the LTSS. The main document referring to this appears to be here in PDF format, as published by Tsang.
The company has created what it calls three tiers of access to its satellite service —— one at 75GB, one at 100Gb and one at 150GB.
In addition, the NBN company will also rack customers’ data usage between certain peak periods (7AM to 1AM) on a daily basis, allocating them 15GB, 20GB and 25GB of download quota in that period, depending on which of the three tiers they are on. Smaller caps apply for upload quota. If customers exceed this data quota, their speeds could be shaped down to 256kbps (upload and download).
It appears that quotas also apply to the NBN company’s fixed wireless product, where the NBN company is setting the limits at 200GB of data downloaded per month, or 60GB uploaded.
I want to note a few things here.
Firstly and most obviously, the documents describing the NBN company’s satellite product set and fair use policy are complex, and subject to change. Tsang, who broke this story, and I may have gotten things wrong here. I’m not an expert on broadband networks to this fine-grained detail. I encourage people to contact the NBN company or their Internet service provider themselves if they are seeking further information on this issue — or check out the documents.
But secondly … I don’t think that very many people at all will find the NBN company’s upper limit of 150GB satisfactory.
I would estimate that many families download at least several hundred gigabytes of data over their broadband connection each month these days. And of course the demand for data would be high in rural areas due to the lack of access to metropolitan services — education, healthcare, business work and so on — much of this would necessarily be conducted online.
In this context, I think the NBN company will rapidly find that users will start to complain about even the higher data quota of 150GB which the company will be offering under its LTSS platform. In the beginning people will be grateful that they are no longer limited to 50GB … but I think they will shortly discover that there is not a huge difference between 50GB and 150GB.
Of course, the NBN company does need to ensure that its satellite service is able to meet the needs of all of its users. This means limiting quota, prioritising traffic and so on. This is necessary and right.
But this will not halt the flood of complaints. I suspect the NBN company is going to need to keep on provisioning as much capacity as it can on an ongoing basis. Because demand is never going to stop growing.
Image credit: NBN company