27 September 2023

Telstra partners with Starlink for rural business

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Tegan Jones reports on Telstra’s new partnership with Starlink to improve services to attract rural Australians.

Telstra has announced a partnership with Starlink to provide fixed broadband and voice services to rural Australians.

According to the telco, this will also include an option for business customers.

Telstra dropped the news in a blog post on Monday, saying this world-first offering will allow it to offer home phone services and Starlink broadband services as a bundle offer.

This will also come with local tech support as well as professional installation.

For business customers, there will be a higher bandwidth option available in areas with there isn’t fixed or mobile connectivity available. According to Telstra, its business offer will be available locally and in select overseas countries.

There will also be extra connectivity options for remote locals where the distance and tricky terrain make it difficult to connect to the current network options available.

At the present time, the Telstra network uses a mix of nbn broadband, its mobile network, and copper and radio networks to deliver connectivity to rural Australians.

Telstra expects Starlink’s low-orbit satellites to provide faster services thanks to the reduced latency provided — a huge boom for voice and video calls.

We don’t currently know how much Telstra’s Starlink plans will cost, but the launch is pencilled in for the end of 2023.

However, at the time of writing Starlink is targeting remote Aussies with a limited-time ‘Rural Australia’ offering that drops the $924 hardware price down to $199. From there the monthly connectivity cost is $139.

The fight for rural Australian internet continues

Earlier this year we spoke to Andrew Bate, founder and CEO of SwarmFarm. The autonomous robotic farming startup operates out of rural Queensland and spent years battling for stable internet so it could run the business.

Comparatively, Bate said that installing Starlink was a simple installation process that delivered on speeds.

This chat came off the back of a report from network tester Ookla in February, which revealed that in Q4 of 2022, Starlink had the fastest median download speed across all Satellite providers in the Oceania region.

Still, this decrease is still punching above the legacy satellite system Sky Muster, which is operated by NBN Co.

Roughly three hours after the Ookla press release dropped, a new email appeared from NBN Co and it had satellite-related news — a three months trial of a new plan that would deliver unmetered speeds up to 100 mbps for 10,000 Australian customers.

While the timing of releases may have simply been coincidental, it did rather seem like a fight for rural customers was brewing now that Starlink was becoming more predominant throughout remote regions of Australia.

And it was about time.

For years rural Australians and businesses have only had access to limited, and often expensive and slower, options when it comes to internet services.

It was also only three years ago that Telstra itself rolled out SMS over Wi-Fi — a critical technology for services such as two-factor authentication and emergency evacuation texts.

Considering the growth of rural Australian businesses and startups — particularly in the wake of Covid — it’s great to see more competitors enter the space. Hopefully, it will force better prices and offerings to people and businesses who should have received it years ago.

It’s unfortunate that it took private enterprises like Starlink to make NBN Co — a government enterprise — come to the table with stronger offers for Australians.

We’ll certainly be looking out for Telstra’s Starlink bundle offerings later this year and will be very interested to see how NBN Co responds.

*Tegan Jones is a senior technology journalist at SmartCompany. An award-winning journalist, she has been reporting on technology, telecommunications and gaming for the past 10 years.

Tegan is the co-host of one of the top technology podcasts in Australia, Queens of the Drone Age. You can find her on Twitter @Tegan_Writes.

The article first appeared in SmartCompany

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