Australian consumers who like a deal now have an opportunity to pay a bit less for Starlink's low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite broadband service, thanks to Telstra.

Nick Wood

March 26, 2024

3 Min Read

After striking a partnership with Starlink last summer and rolling out services to enterprises late last year, the incumbent has finally made it available to consumers, calling it Telstra Satellite Home Internet.

"While many Aussies already have reliable home Internet through our NBN plans, some of us live in more remote locations where a different connectivity solution is best," said Brad Whitcomb, group executive, Telstra consumer, in a blog post. "This is where our Telstra Satellite Home Internet comes in – using innovative LEO satellites to provide high speed, low latency Internet in even the most remote places."

It is priced at A$599 up front and A$125 per month thereafter. There are no data caps and the monthly subscription undercuts Starlink by A$14 per month, adding up to a saving of A$168 over the course of a year. That might be enough to convince some more cost-conscious consumers to take the plunge.

There is a catch though. People who sign up to Starlink via Telstra can expect connection speeds of 50 Mbps downlink and 10 Mbps uplink.

That is markedly slower than the speeds advertised by Starlink, which has been available in Australia since 2021. Throughput varies by state, but on average, customers who pay the extra and buy direct should expect speeds somewhere between 161 Mbps and 231 Mbps downlink, and 17 Mbps and 34 Mbps uplink.

Given that Starlink is owned by Elon Musk, those figures might need to be taken with a grain of salt, but even the low end of those estimates is noticeably faster than what's on offer from Telstra.

A lower price and slower connection aren't the only points of difference though.

Being a telco, Telstra is well practised at bundling extra services to add more value. In this case, it is throwing in its Smart Modem 3, a home hub that supports Wi-Fi 6, VoIP, and can automatically switch to Telstra's 4G network if the primary connection goes down.

4G failover might have limited use for Starlink users, since they have probably signed up to satellite broadband because they live outside Telstra or NBN's fixed-wireless access (FWA) footprint.

It's an interesting issue to pick on though, because as one reviewer has already pointed out, Starlink frequently drops out as LEO satellites pass out of range – and throughput falls significantly in bad weather. So a back up 4G connection is useful on paper but probably useless in practice to Starlink's target market.

There are a couple of other cards that Telstra can play though.

One is the brand. Love or hate Telstra, it is a household name in Australia that has been around for a long time, so it lends a certain legitimacy to the services it offers. That might give some of the more reticent consumers the confidence to try out LEO broadband.

Telstra also has a large retail footprint. While Starlink is unlikely to buy real estate in Alice Springs any time soon, Telstra has a shop in the Yeperenye shopping mall on Hartley Street, a few blocks away from the station. If something goes wrong, a customer can walk in there and have a calm, constructive conversation with the undoubtedly very professional staff in that shop.

"Just like with other Telstra services, you can visit one of our stores for some help from a local if you need it or jump into the MyTelstra app to talk with an agent," said Whitcomb. "With our 30-day service guarantee, you can also try out Telstra Satellite Home Internet with no risk. If it's not up to your standards, simply return the hardware within 30 days and we'll refund your first monthly fee plus any hardware repayment costs."

These little value-adds offer no guarantee of success for Telstra, but they highlight how telcos can try and capitalise on the nascent LEO market.

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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