NBN Co sets 150GB cap on long-term satellite access


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


  1. I have to give a clip behind the ear here. I give it to anyone who is using “average internet consumption” as a basis for what the limit for this satellite should be. Surely the average goes out the window here. This is an outlier – a remote area that can expect to use more internet. To use an average for expected consumption is a bit like saying that a guy in the Amazon only needs as many piranha proof wetsuits as a guy in Pitt St Sydney!!

  2. Just out of curiosity, do the LTSS data caps increase once the 2nd Satellite is in active service?

    • I think given the issues with the interim service they’ll be very cautious about data cap increases. At least this is better than the current ‘service’.

      Its just sad that rather than run that last 7% of fibre we’ll be fixing MTM and upgrading it to fibre over the next 20 odd years.

  3. an average Family uses Several Hundred Gigabytes per Month ???
    – only on a *dsl connection could you achieve that ! !
    surely the comparison must be made with Mobile Broadband ?
    – where a typical user has maybe 20 – 50Gb of Data per month. ..

    • Satellite is meant as an equivalent to fixed line BB not mobile. It just has to reach places that cables are too expensive to run currently so no comparisons with mobile BB aren’t really valid.

    • Easily, and no the comparison should not be made with mobile, the satellite service is intended to be a fixed line replacement, you have families with kids using school of the air, medical, and all kinds of things that city users don’t have to worry about, 150gb is entirely inadequate.

  4. If all subscribers use the satellites at the same time, the bandwidth per user is only a few hundred kbit/sec. Netflix is about 1500 kb/sec standard definition (0.7Gbyte/Hour) and 7000 kbit/sec for high definition (3Gbytes/hour). It would only take a few percent of the satellite subscribers watching Netflix to saturate the satellite. So limits like those described in the article are inevitable.
    The only solution is to expand the fixed line footprint. There are many people with satellite connections who also have a fixed line phone service. All that copper needs to be replaced with fiber. The copper gets replaced with new copper on a pretty regular basis anyway.

  5. I think most families would download less than <150GB in rural areas. My family lives in Rural NSW and is on the interim solution, and even when we were on fixed line we downloaded no where near 150GB of data, i think you'll be surprised to find the number of people who are happy with even 50GB but 50GB that runs at a reaosnable speed. That's my parents biggest frustration at the moment, it's not the amount of data, but hte speed of it that's really lacking.

    • That is because they don’t have the data in the first place. As a family in Rural WA we were limited to 2 x 25GB plans at a whopping $330 per month, that was still not enough for a month. Then shaping at 64kbps just meant the kids could not use the internet.

      Fortunately for us we recently just slid into the NBN Fixed Wireless footprint (lucky us) and we have seen a mind blowing 400GB used in each month we have had it. Why? Online learning, we home school and having access to faster data and much more of it we can open the wider world to our kids education, something we struggled with before now.

      While 150GB will probably be enough to get by now, it will not be long before it is no longer enough. We keep hearing how more and more data is used but you come along and tell us in Rural areas to not use it – this is a NATIONAL broadband Network not a city broadband network.

      If the NBN is unable to cater for the needs of rural families across the country then they need to come up with a much better solution faster.

    • While that might be true for many in rural areas now, once they get a taste of real broadband that will change. Especially with the quality of TV out there, things like netflix will take off faster than the rockets that put those satellites in orbit. Or at least they would, if there was the quota for it.

  6. Can anyone confirm that the proposed monthly download allowance allowed during 7am to 1am is only 15GB and 3GB upload. What about shaping as even at 64kbps you could do 15GB a month.

    Also these quotas are supposed to last the life of the satellite so around twelve years.

  7. Did I read that right, that they are going to place a limit of 200GB per month on Fixed Wireless?

  8. 150gb is a hell of a lot better than the current PATHETIC 20gb A month I get! (As A uni student this makes my life god damn hard!) Hurry up mid 2016!

    to those arguing about how much data the average family uses, previously I was averaging 40gb a month, on my own (prior to the cap), the only way a big family would use several hundred GB of data would be if they’re streaming. I think businesses and special cases should have exceptions made for them. Eg; schools, long distance students, businesses should be allowed more.

  9. ps. I would like to mention about the current ’50gb’ per month.

    Alot of ISPs do not even offer close to that amount. my current ISP offers 20gb/month MAX on a anytime plan.

    for those other ISPS that offer 50gb a month, you can still be capped (writer of this article do your research, if you do not believe me).

    The 50gb is over a 4 week period. For example if a user downloaded 30gb in the last 2 weeks of their monthly limit, then downloaded 20gb in the next 1 week into the next billing period, they would have reached that 50gb per 4 week limit (note the 50gb per 4 week limit doesnt apply per billing period, its per 4 weeks.) so they would get capped and screwed over for a amount of time.

  10. Renai, all figures you’ve quoted are a maximum rolling 4week average.

    What this actually means: Maximum data usage a month currently on the Interim Satellite Service is 20GB anytime, or 25GB split into on/offpeak.

    Maximum data usage each month on the LTSS: ~60GB anytime or 75GB split into on/offpeak.

    Even if providers wish to sell more offpeak usage when most of the satellite capacity is unused, they can’t. NBNCo will not allow them to do so beyond that which I’ve mentioned.

  11. Does your average family really use several hundred gigabytes a month?

    My family uses about 180GB per month and I work from home as a web developer and we use the internet a hell of a lot outside of work. I really struggle to see how your average family would use more than us.

    • Our family uses around 250-300 GB per month mainly due to Netflix and other streaming services being heavily used by all of us (2 adults and 2 kids under 5).

      We also use Dropbox and iCloud services to back up computers and phones etc.

      We have 12/1 mbps ADSL.

    • PS, I just checked this months usage and we have hit 330GB with 7 days to go – we were on the 500GB plan but Telstra recently upgraded us to 1TB for free (might as well be unlimited as we’ve never even exceeded 450GB).

      • Heck I’m single and mange to go through a combined usage easily in the 200-250gb range.

        @ Derek just wait until the kids start grabbing youtube at higher res or you have multiple netflix streams going at once ;) You’ll wonder where the 1TB went.

  12. Family of four…
    Netflix, Fetch (on two TVs (one almost constant))
    FOUR mobiles on home service
    THREE desktops running email, web and other services
    All home services are VoIP
    Permanent site-to-site VPN for website admin
    Average is about 80-100 Gigs per month.
    If you’re needing several hundred GB per month as a household, the you’re probably doing something wrong.

    • I user over 100gig on netflix a month, granted it is US netflix so I guess I am doing something wrong, as you say, but I also think you are being disingenuous as well so…

    • @samma I suspect your Fetch data (and possibly Netflix) maybe unmetered, are you on Optus?

  13. Agree with the last few comments. We have 30mbps cable at home – shared between 3 heavy users (2 work in IT) and 2 light users – between us 6-7 computers, 5 phones, 2 tablets, 2 TVs. We have trouble hitting 200GB and our uploads are counted also. Yet we download plenty, netflix, iView, youtube, VoIP etc. If you really need more than 150GB, sign up for two services?

  14. The 200GB limit for fixed wireless is not set for the ENDUSER, it is an average of ALL clients of an RSP (the customer). The RSP has to manage a mix of plans so that they AVERAGE 200GB in a rolling 4 week period calculated weekly.
    Similar rules for the LTS 75/100/150 Draft averages, its per RSP and averaged across all their clients. The Peak Upload and Download quotas are AVERAGES across ALL clients, not set for one client. The RSP has to manage the mix of plans available so they meet the Fair Use Policy.

  15. 150GB is heaps of data. We have to survive on 3G data due to no more investment in ADSL (no more ports like 1125 other RIMs with untold newly connected houses and zero available ports) and we get 2 x 12GB for $40 + 40/m. 24GB doesn’t go very far so we have a “no youtube” (or iView, etc.) rule unless it is explicitly required.

    Also, try living on modern IT with that sort of cap when 3 devices all want a 1GB iOS update that is made (by the manufacturer) to deny caching.

  16. “I would estimate that many families download at least several hundred gigabytes of data over their broadband connection each month these days. ”

    This comment makes the classic mistake that every geek out there makes – they think that everyone else’s internet habits are similar to theirs, because they’re normal, right?

    I’d say that 50GB would be a far more realistic average consumption for a family household.

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