NBN Co’s fight to win back rural customers — and fend off rival satellite service Starlink — is far from over. But in good news for the network, the company’s newly-launched Sky Muster Plus Premium plans are gaining ground with regional users, attracting more than 21,000 sign-ups since June.
The promising update was shared by the Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP. The uptake in NBN Co’s new, faster satellite plans comes as the Albanese Government makes further promises to improve broadband across regional Australia.
“The Albanese Government is committed to reducing the digital divide to ensure our regions can reach their potential — including by boosting broadband speeds,” Ms Rowland said.
“The strong take up of NBN Sky Muster Premium is further proof of the growing demand for data across rural Australia, and the importance of continuing to evolve the NBN.”
What is Sky Muster Plus Premium?
Australia’s demand for faster speeds, reliable performance and unlimited data has been problematic for NBN Co’s satellite service. Earlier this year, NBN Co reported that 10,000 of its Sky Muster customers had disconnected in the previous 12 months, with a large chunk most likely ditching the national network in favour of the SpaceX-owned Starlink service.
Sky Muster Plus Premium satellite plans were first announced as a trial product in February. Unlike other Sky Muster plans, Plus Premium includes unlimited data use without on-peak/off-peak data caps, in addition to much faster maximum download speeds.
During Sky Muster Plus Premium’s trial run, around 10,000 satellite users tested the service across regional Australia, in areas where fixed-line fibre NBN is currently unavailable. The success of the trial led to an official Plus Premium launch in June — and as of August, almost half of all Sky Muster Plus customers have upgraded to a Premium plan.
Until the launch of Sky Muster Plus Premium, NBN satellite customers were limited to maximum download speed of 25 megabits per second (Mbps); however, the new Premium plans offer ‘burst speeds’ of up to 100Mbps when the network allows. The inclusion of completely unlimited data use — including VPN use and video streaming — is also a huge drawcard, as previous plans divided data into peak and off-peak usage allowances.
If you’re interested in comparing SkyMuster and SkyMuster Plus Premium satellite plans, we’ve compiled some examples below.
The following table shows selected published NBN Satellite plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see fixed-line plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.
|Brand||Features||Max Data**/billing period||Advertised Cost^^/billing period|
min. cost $64.95 over one month
|200GB||$64.95||Go To Site|
Sky Muster Standard Plan
min. cost $64.99 over one month
Sky Muster Plus
min. cost $69.95 for first month
min. cost $99.00 over one month
|Unlimited||$99.00||Go To Site|
min. cost $130 for one month billing period
|Unlimited||$130||Go To Site|
|View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue||**^^View important information|
NBN Co: taking on Starlink with regional upgrades
It’s no secret that Starlink’s low-orbit, low-latency satellite broadband service is a major threat to NBN’s Sky Muster. Starlink offers comparatively faster speeds: Ookla reported that the service clocked a median download speed of 106.43Mbps in Australia during the fourth quarter of 2022. However, Starlink plans are considerably pricier, with set up costs totalling over $600 in addition to the $139 per month plan fee.
This may change in the future, particularly as Starlink has now signed partnerships with two of Australia’s biggest telcos. In July, Telstra confirmed that it will soon offer Starlink satellite plans to regional customers, while Optus is planning to use Starlink to boost its mobile network in remote locations. The Telstra deal could lead to potentially lower prices for Starlink-powered broadband, depending on how Telstra plans to price and package its satellite products.
For now, NBN Sky Muster Plus Premium is still a cheaper option for regional customers, even if it can’t quite compete on speed. These plans are priced at around $100 monthly, although new customers may be eligible for introductory discounts; for example, telco Activ8me is currently offering the plan for $94 monthly for three months, then $99 per month ongoing. Sky Muster plans are also free from setup fees, and most providers offer no-contract, no lock-in service.
For customers without access to reliable, fixed-line NBN, broadband options have been limited. Starlink provides a competitive alternative in areas where other wireless technologies, such as 4G or 5G internet, aren’t available; however, NBN Co remains committed to improving its own service outside of the big cities.
In addition to launching new satellite plans, NBN Co has also invested $270 million into its fixed wireless network — adding to the $480 million fixed wireless funding supplied by the Australian Government. These regional network upgrades will allow around 120,000 homes and businesses to move from Sky Muster to fixed wireless, meaning greater capacity (and a better performance) for customers who do stay with the NBN’s satellite service.
NBN Co is also continuing its full-fibre rollout, which allows homes and businesses to access faster speeds by upgrading to Fibre to the Premises technology (FTTP). Enabled by a $2.4 billion dollar government investment, the rollout will make FTTP available to an additional 1.5 million addresses, including more than 660,000 in regional locations.
“Whether you live in a capital city or in the bush, access to fast, reliable and affordable broadband has never been more important,” Ms Rowland said.
“Across the Sky Muster, fixed wireless and fixed-line networks, the Albanese Government is dedicated to improving the NBN to give Australian businesses and households access to the 21st century communications infrastructure they need and deserve.”