NBN Co is proposing to offer Sky Muster satellite users a major concession by unmetering certain types of traffic including web browsing and software updates, as well as allowing services to burst above 25Mbps.
The concession will come in the form of a new wholesale product called Sky Muster Plus, set to be sold from 2019.
It represents a significant win for the volunteer-based Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia (BIRRR) group, which has been advocating for this - and other - changes on behalf of its 11,000-plus members.
Details of Sky Muster Plus are not yet set in stone, and like other new price offers must first pass a consultation process between NBN Co and its retail service providers.
That is likely to account for the more cautious take on potential inclusions offered up by NBN Co.
“The new wholesale plans will no longer count the use of monthly data allowance towards essential internet services – like internet banking and email,” NBN Co said in a statement.
“This means when a user exhausts their monthly data allowance, wholesale download speeds will not be slowed down for regular web activities like accessing emails or internet banking.
“Use of other web traffic, however, including streaming video and online gaming, will continue to be subject to monthly data allowances, with speeds being shaped if data limits are exceeded.”
Certain content elements within “essential internet services” may not qualify.
“Web-based applications that include embedded videos and audio, such as social media platforms, may have audio and videos disabled if a user’s monthly data allowance is exhausted,” NBN Co noted.
BIRRR’s co-founder Kristy Sparrow suggested in a statement that Sky Muster Plus could unmeter a variety of traffic.
“It will allow for improved Sky Muster plans that can deliver unmetered access across sites such as web browsing, email, smartphone and PC operating system updates - downloads which will not count toward monthly data allowances,” she said.
“The proposed option will also help deliver faster download speeds, by providing ‘bursts’ up to 50Mbps (wholesale speed), when applications and network support allows.”
Sparrow also said that users would “not be shaped for essential email and web browsing activities”, even if they had exhausted their usual metered allowance on other internet services.
Unmetering software updates could be a big win for regional and remote Australia. The last set of automatic Windows 10 updates alone were between 480MB and 846MB in size.
Sparrow estimated that between 30 percent and 40 percent of an average Sky Muster user’s internet use could be unmetered with the new product.
“Sky Muster Plus will make a significant difference to those who have been battling limited data allowances, especially for the 42 percent of Sky Muster users who have no other internet option,” Sparrow said.
Sky Muster users have long battled with quota restrictions on the satellite service.
NBN Co increased quotas last year, but they still require RSPs to ensure the sum total use of all customers does not exceed an average 45GB a month during peak periods, meaning careful traffic management is required on both the RSP and customer sides.