NBN Co admits to 'exorbitant' number of satellite failures

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NBN Co admits to 'exorbitant' number of satellite failures

Could take a year to fix Sky Muster issues.

NBN Co has admitted to an "exorbitant" rate of failures for its Sky Muster satellite service, forecasting that it may take as long as a year to iron out software bugs.

Technical issues have plagued the satellite service since the first Sky Muster satellite launched into space in October 2015. Many users have complained of poor service as well as a total inability to connect.

The launch of the second satellite late last year was marred by a botched software update to the Viasat modems that help power the service, leaving vast numbers of users unable to connect for long periods of time.

The most recent outage occured just this week, shuttering services for at least three hours on Monday night.

NBN Co chief customer officer John Simon earlier this month conceded the satellite service had not met anyone's expectations.

Under questioning in senate estimates on Tuesday, CEO Bill Morrow admitted the network builder had experienced an "exorbitant" amount of network failures with the satellite service.

He said at the height of the problems late last year, the company was addressing around 30 to 40 network issues a week.

Software bugs in the new platform only started to arise under load, Morrow said, with problems occuring in force once the network builder passed 15,000 users on the satellite service last year.

"We worked 24 hours a day to try and identify the root cause, and the team has been slowly knocking these [bugs] off. In the past few weeks, it has been down to around five to seven incidents a week, and a few of those are related to weather," Morrow said.

"The satellite - while it's wonderful in new technology and cutting edge in so many ways and offers a service that many people otherwise wouldn't have had - it's prone to error. It will never be as reliable as what people have in metropolitan areas; it is susceptible to weather and there really isn't anything we can do."

He said recent changes in user performance scores indicated the satellite service was stabilising and becoming reliable following the rectification efforts.

"There's only so much we can do, but we'll make sure that at least it can perform at the best possible [rate] according to its design," Morrow said.

But the CEO revealed it would likely be six months to a year before NBN Co could address all the software bugs in the satellite systen.

"I'm confident improvements will continue. I'm not confident they'll go away entirely for a while," he said. 

"I feel awful that we have to do this real-time with customers."

There are currently around 54,000 users active on the satellite service.

Any existing customers on the interim satellite service lost their connections on Tuesday when the ISS was switched off. Simon said there were around 1000 customers NBN Co had been unable to contact left on the interim service.

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