NBN is gearing up for a customer field trial of its first Sky Muster satellite in regional Victoria, as it prepares for the commercial launch of internet services in April.
Executive general manager for new developments, wireless and satellite Gavin Williams told iTnews the field trial would consist of 200 end users from three RSPs – SkyMesh, Harbour ISP and Activ8me.
The end users were selected as part of an expression of interest process run by NBN. Trial services will be “supported by a couple of spot beams that cover those locations,” Williams said.
To date, NBN has connected only a small number of “end user services” to Sky Muster across Australia for the purpose of commissioning the 101 spot beams the long-term satellite service will provide.
Spot beams are used to carry information to and from the end user equipment and the satellite.
“We have installed end user services in each of the spot beams and plugged those into a test probe which enables us to determine the performance of each of those beams,” Williams said.
“These end user services being installed in each of the spot beams for the purpose of beam commissioning [are] separate from the customer field trial.”
RSPs including those involved in the customer field trial started unveiling their Sky Muster plans in early January. They started taking orders and indicated commercial availability was expected this April.
Williams said NBN envisaged opening services on Sky Muster Australia-wide from April.
“The key requirement at the point of launch is to have field staff able to do the installations,” he said.
“That will be the key resource constraint. We’re garnering a field force as we speak. We’re gearing that up to be able to do a job that’s up to three times the volume that’s been seen in the satellite industry before.”
Williams said he expected a field force of 650 installers to be ready for the commercial launch, but said some “might be part time”.
While maps previously released by NBN show spot beams covering metropolitan parts of Australia – and a demonstration event today allowed attendees to connect to the satellite service from metropolitan Melbourne – Williams said metro users would not be able to join Sky Muster.
He said the company’s 'technology choice' scheme – where users can pay to be served by a different access technology – could not be used by metro users who didn’t want to wait for FTTN, HFC or other services to switch instead to be served by satellite.
“That’s not something we envisage,” he said.
“The satellite’s being put up there to transform communication services in the bush so unfortunately if [you’re waiting for another access technology] you’ll need to hold out for that.”