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Rural and regional Australians lucky enough to trial the National Broadband Network satellite service will enjoy a rare treat during the next few months: unlimited plans.
The 200 Australians taking receipt of satellite dishes had initially been offered a download quota of 10 GB with speed shaping once users reached the quota. But NBN Co spokesperson Scott Rhodie confirmed on the Whirlpool user forum late last week that trial users would be moved to an unlimited plan once all users had been taken into the trial later this week.
SkyMesh director Paul Rees told iTnews that any download quotas placed on satellite users were simply a formality for the time being.
Users could effectively download as much as they want until November when they would be migrated to longer-term commercial plans.
Rees said he had attempted to take full advantage of the trial service himself since receiving it earlier in the week. While talking to iTnews he had downloaded 30 GB over the theoretically uncontended service in a single day as a test.
He said the unlimited plans were offered intentionally so that NBN Co and trial ISPs HarbourSAT and SkyMesh could gauge interest from users and test satellite capacity.
"If you let somebody go crazy, how much would they use?" Rees said.
Those eligible would later be moved to a 20 GB download quota plan with on/off-peak rates ahead of commercial service in November.
While some users had reported queued Linux torrents due to the trial plans, Rees said most would be unlikely to take up an offer with a higher download cap.
Satellite ISPs can offer download quotas in excess of 20 or 30GB over non-NBN satellites, but the number of satellite users taking up these higher-end plans were miniscule.
Those higher quota plans can exceed $1500 per month on some ISPs, and aren't usually covered by the Federal Government's Australian Broadband Guarantee, which the NBN satellite trials will replace from next month.
"Most of the regional satellite customers we have are paying us for maybe 1 GB plus 2 GB of bonus data," Rees said. "I don't think it's because they can't afford it... I just don't think the country folk are into the sort of downloads on really large plans."
Under the initial trial, which began two weeks ago, Skybridge installed new satellite dishes and modems at each of the homes of 200 existing SkyMesh and HarbourSat customers.
Those connected to the trial service had reported speeds of up to 6 Mbps up from a usual 1 Mbps, as intended, and latency times of between 500 and 600 miliseconds - half that of the IPStar service most SkyMesh users were currently on.
The trial service mirrors the 6 Mbps satellite service Optus had announced in August last year. The "Premium Satellite" service was at the time pegged as a higher-end offering for rural small businesses and those in the mining and construction sector.
However, the offer had since been removed from Optus' website, with the same satellite now being used to service the NBN trial customers today and later other satellite customers.
NBN Co estimations pegged capacity on the Optus D1 satellite, served out of an earth station in Belrose, for up to 1700 users simultaneously in a contended setting, with a guaranteed throughput during an average busy hour of 30 Kbps.
In the meantime, the 200 users trialling the service have enjoyed the enhanced latency times and speeds consistently.
The triallists would continue receiving the service as is until November. Eligible users receive it free, but have continued to pay for their existing IPStar satellite service as a fall-back.
The trial service is expected to be bolstered with additional capacity from IPStar satellites from July, with earth stations built in Kalgoorlie and Broken Hill gateways using SkyEdge Gilat equipment echoing Optus' satellites.
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