NBN Co upgrades network gear software after Sky Muster faults skyrocket

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NBN Co upgrades network gear software after Sky Muster faults skyrocket

January 2020 outage impacted more users than reported.

NBN Co is upgrading the software on network equipment used for its Sky Muster service following a sharp rise in the number of network faults recorded over the past six months.

The company overnight released numbers on the performance of its satellite network in January, a month in which it had a near two-day outage impacting some users.

Across the whole of January 2020, NBN Co recorded 22 satellite network faults, well above the six it saw on the network in July and August last year.

The company produced a graph showing the number of faults had risen consistently over the past six months, as had the “average” time needed to resolve them, which is now almost 2.5 hours.

“Average” time to resolution somewhat masks the impact of outages by distributing the impact across all 96,000 Sky Muster users for reporting purposes, even though many of those users would not have experienced an outage.

The company’s main January outage is a case in point.

While it was reported at the time that the number of impacted users was around 3000 to 4000, it can now be revealed that the impact was felt by 10 percent - about 9600 - users.

“The [total] January average time to restore figures were impacted by a complex network incident that affected roughly 10 percent of our overall satellite customers,” an NBN Co spokesperson told iTnews.

The impact on directly impacted users was severe, stretching to “37.3 hours”, according to NBN Co’s official post-mortem numbers.

However, when averaged across the entire user base, the impact appears considerably less.

The sharp rise in network incidents on Sky Muster coincided with a catastrophic bushfire season, and flash floods in parts of the country in late January.

NBN Co’s spokesperson confirmed that, in January alone, “the increased number of satellite network incidents in January was largely driven by an increase in weather-related faults, which accounted for 13 of 22 faults”.

“However, there were also a number of short running, low impacting equipment related failures in the network,” the spokesperson said, adding that “a software upgrade aimed at fixing these issues” is being deployed from this month.

It’s worth noting that January 2020 is the worst ever month for network incidents on Sky Muster, though not for average time to restore.

That milestone was set in April 2019 when NBN Co saw 20 incidents and an average time to restore of 13.5 hours, indicating a particularly widespread fault.

Still, the existence of data on Sky Muster faults is relatively nascent, being introduced only in September last year, with a backdated set of numbers stretching back to September 2018.

The Sky Muster numbers also include a quirk not found in other reported figures: the accounting for weather-related faults.

“For all technologies except for Sky Muster and Sky Muster Plus, when we calculate our metrics we do not include natural disasters or other extraordinary events beyond our control in the calculation as they would skew the results significantly,” NBN Co’s spokesperson said.

“For Sky Muster and Sky Muster Plus, a ‘network fault’ means an incident on the NBN satellite network where one or more Sky Muster and Sky Muster Plus services degrades and does not meet NBN Co’s technical criteria and which NBN Co is responsible, or is caused by a weather event.”

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