Internet in Australia could become 10 times faster after Telstra confirmed it would spend $1.6 billion on infrastructure to bolster connectivity and speed.
The telco has inked a deal with US communications giant Viasat which will see ground stations to help it deliver satellite internet to Australia — the data and video streaming speeds will rev up to 150 megabits per second.
Currently the NBN Sky Muster satellite delivers 12Mbps for the basic service, or 25Mbps for the upgraded service, leaving Australia 59th worldwide for internet speed.
Both Viasat and NBN Sky Musters are geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites — they hover about 35,000 kilometres from Earth, much further away than Elon Musk’s Starlink.
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Telstra CEO Andy Penn hasn’t named names but says there will be later announcements concerning low earth orbit satellites (LEOsats), fueling speculation that a deal could be in the works.
Closer to earth Telstra is also adding about 20,000 kilometres of inner-city fibre paths, which will speed up the connection between capital cities and regional areas.
It comes as the remote workforce has placed unprecedented strain on Australia’s internet, with tree and sea changes away from metro centres highlighting the need for faster internet everywhere.
Everyone’s set to benefit from the billion-dollar boost, Telstra CEO Andy Penn promised.
“This will support remote working and education needs, health services, high-definition entertainment consumption and online gaming, and IoT [internet of things] use cases such as mining and agriculture,” Penn says.
But it’s been a long time coming, says Alexi Boyd, the chief executive of the Council of Small Businesses of Australia, who called Australia’s internet a “massive problem” for small businesses.
“There are very few businesses who don’t need fast internet to function … What we’re hearing from our regional members is that it is woeful — it’s almost impossible to run a business in some places.”
Boyd says digitisation has for a long time affected nearly every part of a small business: finance, data, social media, internal software and backing up using cloud services among them.
“We welcome something like this, but in many ways, internet service providers have been behind the eight-ball in terms of what small businesses have needed in the last 18 months,” she says.
Labor Leader Anthony Albanese is campaigning ahead of the election on bringing Australia better internet, promising 660,000 premises in the regions and 840,000 in the suburbs will benefit from his plan.
He says 10 million premises will have access to world-class gigabit speeds by 2025 under a Labor government — the $2.4 billion plan would run fibre into the street, giving those using copper wire the choice of having fibre connected by NBN without extra cost to get faster speed.
So who’s picking up the bill? The opposition says its internet proposal would be funded by a combination of Commonwealth loans, free cash flows and equity — the proportions would be figured out in government, Albanese says.