In a case of if you can’t beat em’, join em’, Telstra has announced it is has entered into a world-first partnership with SpaceX’s Starlink satellite service.
The newly-signed agreement will make Telstra the first and sole telecommunications provider in the world to offer Starlink-powered broadband and voice plans to customers. Telstra will offer the upcoming Starlink-based services to customers in rural and remote areas of Australia, with both residential and business options set to go live in late 2023.
Telstra CEO Vicki Brady said launching a satellite broadband product was already a part of the company’s T25 strategy, with the technology offered by Starlink the “best solution” for customers in remote locations.
“Telstra is always looking to invest in new and better connectivity options for our customers,” Ms Brady said.
“We know that collaborating with the right partners is one of the best ways to help unlock a digital future, in this case for people in rural and remote Australia looking for an improved voice or broadband service.”
Why is Telstra partnering with Starlink?
Owned by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, Starlink is a satellite broadband service that uses Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite technology to deliver fast internet and voice communications, particularly in areas where fixed-line broadband is lacking. The close proximity of LEO satellites to the earth means stronger signal strength and lower latency, so customers in remote areas can access high-speed internet where fibre or cable networks aren’t available.
There’s a serious need for a fast, wireless internet alternative across regional Australia, where many customers currently rely on NBN’s Sky Muster satellite or fixed wireless. Both these connection types come with limitations, including slower maximum speeds when compared to Starlink.
Recognising the threat Starlink presents, NBN Co has recently launched a new, faster Sky Muster Plus Premium plan with no data caps and potential speeds of up to 100Mbps. The national broadband network is also working to upgrade fixed wireless and Sky Muster infrastructure across the country, with recent improvements offering benefits to more than 30,000 premises in regional areas.
While NBN Co is finally making an effort to catch up, it may be too little, too late for many rural customers, with some already moving to the pricier, but more reliable Starlink. Recent analysis from Ookla shows that Starlink is achieving median speeds of 106.43Mbps in Australia, which is more than two times faster than the 52.65Mbps median speed of all Aussie fixed broadband providers combined.
Starlink is ideal for rural locations, and farmers in Australia are putting it to good use 🇦🇺🚜👏 https://t.co/rlABfHpFeQ
— Starlink (@Starlink) May 24, 2023
How will Telstra’s Starlink plans compare?
Telstra is keeping quiet on actual pricing and plan details, which it plans to release closer to the product launch date. However, Starlink currently isn’t cheap, with unlimited plans priced at $139 per month.
This doesn’t include the hefty hardware cost, which comes to $924 upfront. Currently, Starlink is running an installation discount for customers in select rural areas of Australia, which brings this cost down to just $199. But this deal isn’t available nation-wide, and could be withdrawn at any time.
In comparison, NBN plans are generally free of set-up fees, and even the newest unlimited SkyMuster Plus Premium plans are priced at around $99 monthly for ‘burst speeds’ up to 100Mbps. These plans include a baseline speed of 25Mbps for downloads, and uploads of up to 5Mbps; however, where network conditions allow, you may have access to much faster download speeds temporarily.
So for customers in remote areas, the choice between Starlink of SkyMuster generally comes down to price versus speed, as well as convenience. Starlink’s hardware needs to be self-installed, and while there’s a dedicated Starlink mobile app available for customers to monitor and self-service their plan, local customer service isn’t available.
Clearly, Telstra is looking for a way to increase its influence in remote areas, where it already offers the widest-reaching mobile network coverage. Selling the US-based Starlink service as a Telstra product also means potential customers will likely get the added benefit of Australian customer service and support, as well as professional installation if needed.
Telstra’s Regional Australia Executive and Regional Customer Advocate, Loretta Willaton, said that the telco’s satellite pricing and plans will be “unique”. If Telstra can offer Starlink-based phone and broadband plans in a competitively-priced package, the partnership could be a game-changer for country Aussies desperate for a reliable, fast internet solution.
Compare satellite NBN plans
To give you an idea of how NBN’s SkyMuster and SkyMuster Plus satellite plans are priced right now, 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|