At 6.30am (AEST) the nbn's first broadband satellite, Sky Muster, successfully lifted into orbit, blasting 36,000kms into space from Guiana Space Centre in South America.
The event which was broadcast live on the Internet and attracted viewing parties around the world, again underscored addictive grandeur of watching a rocket soar into space, this time with a payload that is critical to the nbn providing fast broadband access to more than 400,000 Australian homes and businesses.
Over the coming months, Sky Muster, one of the most advanced communications satellites, will undergo final technical testing ahead of its commercial launch scheduled for mid-2016. Once available, the service is expected to provide wholesale speeds significantly faster than those currently used now.
nbn CEO, Bill Morrow, said the satellite will provide access to fast broadband for the parts of Australia that need it most.
“With the launch of Sky Muster, we’re one step closer to changing the digital face of our nation. The ability to video-conference friends and family, study courses online and visit doctors from your lounge room will all be possible in areas which have traditionally struggled to access basic internet services like online banking and shopping.
“Many homes and businesses in regional and rural Australia still rely on dial-up level speeds and have little or no access to a commercial broadband service – this satellite will help to close the divide and ensure no-one gets left behind.”
Based 400km outside of Alice Springs and a student of School of the Air, six-year-old Bailey Brooks won the opportunity to name the satellite through a nationwide nbn drawing competition which invited children to illustrate how the nbn network will help make Australia a better country.
Bailey, with her remote classmates, named the satellite Sky Muster to refer to how the satellite will ‘round up’and help connect Australians together. Her winning artwork was printed on the side of the rocket that launched Sky Muster into orbit and she was in Sydney to celebrate.
“I was excited when I watched the rocket go into space. The satellite will help my school friends and I talk to each other and our teachers from our computers,” she said.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) congratulated nbn and Arianespace on the successful launch of the Sky Muster satellite.
Sky Muster is the first of two satellites that nbn is launching as part of its plan to provide broadband services to all premises in Australia. The second satellite is expected to launch mid-2016.
ACCAN said in statement that satellites will provide broadband services to three per cent of premises in Australia, primarily in regional and remote areas including the islands that make up Australia. Consumers in these areas currently have poor to no broadband, with many facing difficult situations created by the lack of adequate services and exorbitant costs.
Current satellite services offer low speeds and data allowances, usually up to 6Mbps download speeds and up to 20GB of data a month. These services often come with very high set up costs, making them unaffordable for many consumers.
Consumers have had very mixed experiences with these services, often reporting very slow speeds or insufficient data to last the month, according to ACCAN. In some areas, consumers are unable to receive even basic Internet services.
“People increasingly need a reliable and affordable internet connection for essential services, such as education, banking and health. The successful launch of Sky Muster is an important milestone in the delivery of fast broadband services to regional and remote Australia,” ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, said.
“When these services become available to consumers in the first half of 2016, ACCAN hopes they will meet consumer need and be sold at a comparable cost to services sold in the rest of Australia.”