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NBN Co to boost Sky Muster with unmetered content, speed bursts– and Layer 3 management

NBN Co and the Federal Government have unveiled plans to offer a premium Sky Muster service next year which will allow speed bursts over the nominal 25Mbps limit and extend unmetered data to a range of standard internet use cases such as web browsing, online banking and software updates.

The enhancements have effectively been endorsed by the defacto Sky Muster users group, Better Internet For Rural, Regional And Remote Australia, whose convener Kristy Sparrow played a part in the oficial announcement in Canberra yesterday alongside government and NBN representatives.

According to NBN Co, “use of other web trafic, 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.” More intriguing, the new Sky Muster Plus service - as it will be known - appears to be a full Layer 3 managed service, with NBN Co providing backhaul, IP transit and its virtual connectivity circuit (CVC) construct in the new offer.

Such a practice is common place in the mainstream satellite sector, where retailers often fulil little more than marketing and billing functions, but is alien to the NBN, which is conceived as a Layer 2 provider in the main and requires retailers to buy their own backhaul.

CONSULTING: NBN Co is also currently consulting on offering a high priority capability for VOIP, a multicast capacity for education providers and an extension of unmetered data to students for their education needs. CommsDay understands that an extensive consultation document was sent to RSPs yesterday.

The proposed relaxed data limits are broadly in line with what both Sky Muster users and retailers have sought for months although the move up the layer stack may not be popular with providers who use their trafic management policies as a marketing point of difference. NBN Co clariied the proposed product construct as speciic only to Sky Muster.

“Sky Muster Plus will allow NBN Co to monitor data heavy applications versus non data heavy applications for Sky Muster users. That means homes and businesses in the bush will have access to unmetered data applications including web browsing, email and software updates. We don’t operate our other technologies this way as they don’t have limited data capacity plans and don’t have existing plans to do so,” a spokesperson said.

There is a distinct technical advantage for NBN Co in moving its heavier satellite users from a Layer 2 to a Layer 3 service in terms of allowing more data usage: it removes the need to set lowest common denominator usage restrictions based on the busiest beams or service providers.

LAYER 3 ADVANTAGES: In a submission to the Federal parliamentary NBN committee earlier this year, NBN Co partner Viasat explained how it used Layer 3 management control in the US to offer higher-usage plans. “The trafic management techniques to create these plan options include ... rate limiting, application awareness, device-type awareness, time of day policy modiication, media compression and zerorating.

These are only available with a Layer 3 network.” Last year, NBN Co doubled the maximum monthly wholesale data limits on Sky Muster satellite services from 150GB to 300GB per month and also increased the average peak data allowance that phone and internet providers can offer to users by 50 per cent from 30GB to 45GB.

 NBN CO CEO Stephen Rue said: “The new product is designed to give regional and rural Australians peace of mind knowing that essential internet services, like emailing loved ones or accessing internet banking, should not slow down if their monthly data limit has been exceeded.

Our team is also continuing to consult with industry on a number of additional wholesale product updates on the Sky Muster satellite service, including a regional enterprise service as well as additional applications to enable remote telehealth and distance education.” Federal Minister for Regional Services Senator Bridget McKenzie added “The Sky Muster Plus product will allow families to select from a greater range of broadband plans to meet their individual needs. With regional Australia responsible for around 70 per cent of Australia’s exports from only 30 percent of the population, we need to be doing more to build on this success.”

Both the Federal Opposition and the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition also welcomed the announcement yesterday. Grahame Lynch, Commsday

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