Australian incumbent Telstra has revealed plans to offer phone and broadband connectivity via SpaceX's Starlink network.

Nick Wood

July 3, 2023

3 Min Read

Australian incumbent Telstra has revealed plans to offer phone and broadband connectivity via SpaceX’s Starlink network.

The telco said on Monday that it plans to launch bundled services later this year targeted at both the consumer and business segments – the latter will also have the option to purchase a higher-bandwidth package. Telstra currently relies on various access technologies to connect those hard to reach places, including mobile, copper, radio, and NBN’s wholesale fixed network.

“The addition of Starlink will provide an additional connectivity option for people and businesses in rural and remote locations where distance and terrain make it difficult to provide quality connectivity with existing terrestrial networks,” explained Loretta Willaton, regional customer advocate at Telstra, in a blog post.

Starlink has been up and running in Australia since 2022, and has reportedly signed up more than 120,000 customers. Adding a reseller with the reach of Telstra is a win for Starlink that should help drive broader awareness and uptake of its services.

Monday’s announcement comes mere weeks after Telstra partnered with another low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite provider, OneWeb. This partnership is in line with Telstra’s ‘T25’ strategic plan, which aims to extend mobile coverage to an additional 100,000 square kilometres of Australia by the end of 2025.

To help meet that target, Telstra will use OneWeb’s network to backhaul traffic from mobile base stations in remote areas. New rural sites will also be connected via OneWeb satellites. Telstra is also open to the idea of using OneWeb’s network to offer voice and fixed broadband services further down the line.

Australia’s state-run wholesaler NBN is sure to be following Telstra’s rural satellite expansion with great interest.

NBN offers a satellite-based broadband service called Sky Muster via two geostationary satellites. It is generally positioned as a connectivity option of last resort for customers living beyond the reach of its fixed and fixed-wireless access (FWA) networks. NBN’s ongoing strategy is to encourage Sky Muster users to migrate to FWA when it becomes available in order to free up capacity on the satellite network.

Indeed, while Sky Muster uses up-to-date Ka-band frequencies and delivers good coverage at affordable prices, newer LEO constellations like Starlink and OneWeb offer higher peak throughput as well as lower latency, making them an attractive option for customers that want to access more demanding online services. Unlike Starlink, NBN until recently also capped data usage on Sky Muster, making for a less attractive proposition for data-hungry users.

In mid-June, NBN confirmed it was exploring the possibility of using LEO satellites. It issued a closed request for information (RFI) from LEO providers, seeking insight into whether they will be able to meet its requirements for price certainty, network and data sovereignty, and options for local support.

“It is important that we properly evaluate the potential of emerging technologies, including low earth orbit satellites, to improve our network and fulfil our mission to lift the digital capability of Australia,” said Jason Ashton, NBN executive general manager for fixed wireless and satellite, at the time.

“We believe that low earth orbit satellite technology could be a part of our network in the future, so we are engaging with those that may be able to offer this as a service in order to find out whether it is feasible.”


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About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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