NBN vs. Elon Musk’s Starlink: A Guide to Getting Reliable Internet in Regional Australia

How to get fast, reliable and affordable Internet?

This is the question that many people, especially in regional Australia, are trying to answer. And often after a bit of searching online, they give up and contact the current provider.

But a recently released Regional Telecom Review report found that telecoms companies, as business entities, are “not always in a position to provide independent advice”.

For example, you might live in a place where a certain product is available but if the carrier you’re calling doesn’t sell it, they will turn you into a shoddy product that they do.

And what exactly is the difference between satellite internet, fixed line and wireless internet?

Towers like these provide NBN fixed wireless to some regional communities.(ABC News: Jackson Goth-Snap)

If you don’t know, you’re not alone, the report found that many of us just don’t have enough ‘connection knowledge’.

One place that offers independent advice on all of the above is the Regional Technical Centre.

It was funded by the federal government but managed by the National Farmers Federation.

The center’s director, Trent Geddes, shared his best tips for getting the right service for you.

Find out what type of internet is on offer

Mr. Geddes says that knowing what kind of internet is available in your location is an important first step.

“Get in touch with an organization like us because we can complete an independent review of all types of technology available,” he says.

Or, if you prefer to do it yourself, the Regional Tech Hub website has links to external mapping tools that you can use to zoom in on your home or office location and see what’s on offer.

A drone shot shows eight large barns, a series of water tanks, and a house surrounded by large trees on a sprawling farm.
Regional Tech Hub uses accurate GPS coordinates for farmhouses and offices when checking the type of Internet services available.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whitham)

“Sometimes addresses, depending on where you are in the country, don’t always end up translating to where your home is or where your office is,” says Geddes.

Get to know the products

There are many internet products offered in regional Australia.

The latest is Elon Musk’s Starlink.

This essentially includes ordering an online antenna, called Dishy, ​​for which customers pay $824 and pay an ongoing monthly fee of $139.

Starlink relies on so-called low-Earth satellites, which are located about 550 kilometers from Earth, to send information through space.

Users are asked to expect fast download speeds between 50 and 250 Mbps and upload speeds between 10 and 20 Mbps.

She certainly got those speeds, says Taraeta Nicholls, a Starlink customer in Trayning, Western Australia, but only this week she experienced crippling outages.

Woman holding a mobile phone while sitting in a living room
Taraeta Nicholls is pleased with the speeds Starlink is offering, but is experiencing an outage this week.(ABC News: Elisa Borrell)

Overall, she is happy to have Starlink but recommends users to get a backup internet alternative.

For example, you keep the wireless service you had before Starlink, or you can use mobile broadband.

Close-up of a woman holding a mobile phone
In late February, Taraeta Nicholls were enjoying high internet speeds from Starlink.(ABC News: Elisa Borrell)

Geddes says Starlink devices can easily be installed in previously hard-to-reach places, but he is concerned about their longevity.

“We don’t think it has been fully tested in the local environment,” he says.

“But I think people are just desperate for an option that works better than they might currently have and they’re just taking risks.”

A small satellite dish is located on the ground outside a farm
Tarita Nichols leaves her Starlink antenna on the ground so she can bring it indoors in bad weather.(ABC News: Elisa Borrell)

Starlink’s Terms and Conditions state that its devices must operate for a minimum of 12 months but performance may be affected by “act of God” such as fire and flood.

The Starlink website also says that “like other new technology” the devices will eventually become “technically obsolete”.