Ask LH: What’s Going On With The NBN In Rural Areas?

Ask LH: What’s Going On With The NBN In Rural Areas?

G’day Lifehacker, What’s going on with the National Broadband Network (NBN) in rural areas. My wife and I are planning to downsize and live the “River Cottage” life in country NSW, and I’m me worried about internet access.

Farm picture from Shutterstock

What are my options for rural connections out of town (with limited Telstra 3G service)? What’s happening with NBN satellite and wireless options? Any advice appreciated. Thanks, Wannabe Farmer

Dear WF,

We’re all still waiting to see what exactly will happen with the NBN. The strategic review competed late last year provides for a rollout that is supposed to be completed by 2019, but we don’t have any detail on rollout plans or what technologies will be used. That’s true whether you’re in a rural area or a big city. For now, it’s a matter of waiting until the full NBN Corporate Plan is updated (which should happen in the first half of the year, but could be delayed because of Telstra contract renegotiations). What we do know is not very reassuring.

The interim NBN Satellite service designed for extremely remote areas has become a victim of its own success. Last year iiNet stopped selling satellite connections because the performance had become too slow, and now NBN Co is not accepting any new sign-ups for the service at all, as its site makes clear:

Capacity has been reached on the Interim Satellite Service and it is not possible to register for, or order, a new service. Registrations for services over the Interim Satellite Service have now closed and no further registrations can be accepted.

The permanent satellite (which will offer higher speeds) is scheduled to roll out in 2015, but there’s always the chance that will change once the revised NBN rollout plan is made public. (The satellite service is designed to serve areas with minimal choices, and it seems unlikely that this would be cancelled given the emphasis on that aspect in Coalition policy, but we don’t know for sure.)

So what can you do? Unfortunately, right now your only option is to see if a basic ADSL or ADSL2 service is available at the address you want to retire to. If it isn’t, you can pay for a commercial satellite service, but that won’t be cheap and it won’t be fast, or rely on the limited 3G service available.

It’s also worth checking whether you can get better 3G or 4G service from Optus or Vodafone in your chosen location. I was in a rural location over the Christmas break, and found that Optus was far more reliable than Telstra in that particular spot.


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  • Adsl and adsl2+ are not options in most rural farming areas. I recently tried to get it at the top endof the Hunter. Telstra said the local exchange does support ADSL and they have no plans to upgrade it, no matter how many household in th&e area wanted it because they’re whaling for the NBN. So we are stuck on a nextG router with annatena on the roof. It’s ok unless it’s raining because then all the farmers are downloading their emails for the week.

  • Thought I’d check what was happening in m y town since the Libs got in… Turns out there is only a small area on fibre, and the rest is wireless… Sooo glad we’re in the fibre connected area..! Before the Libs got in, the whole town was due to be connected very soon, no more, no more… 🙁

  • Australia has what I’d call almost the worst internet, it’s slow and expensive. Why? The roll out will take ages and by the time they approve it all the internet will be satellites and in-ground antennas, wireless is the future don’t think wires are going to be much longer.

  • After living on 3G dongles for a few years my family and I decided to go via the NBN Satellite route, our ISP is Border-net which offers 70gig a month download. It’s a fantastic download limit from our previous 4gig per dongle, the only major problem is that the ping is always above 900 and the speeds get throttled depending on the ISP you are with. Throttling only usually happens when the Interim Satellite gets heavily congested. I kind of wish we tried getting the Wireless NBN, although half our house has no cellular reception I’m sure it would have been better than the Satellite option we have at the moment.

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