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Is nbn™ satellite better than ADSL internet?

young woman confused internet user

We all want to have the best internet service available to us.

There is no debate that this is more difficult in rural and remote parts of Australia than it is in urban areas, but it is possible if you know what you’re looking for and what is actually available to you.

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For the purposes of this article, we’re comparing ADSL and nbn™ satellite services (also known as Sky Muster™ or Sky Muster™ Plus).

If you live in the nbn™ fixed wireless footprint, you may find a similar article we published over here more useful: Is nbn™ fixed wireless better than ADSL internet? 

Not sure what internet technology is available where you live?

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Okay, so if you’re reading this article, it’s because you know that you live inside the nbn™ satellite internet footprint.

Let’s get started by developing a basic understanding of ADSL and satellite internet.

ADSL router and cables

What is ADSL internet?

ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) was the saviour for internet users back in 1999 when Telstra launched the first ADSL service in the Australian market.

It made internet life-after-dial-up feel like travelling on a bullet train.

But just like your old dial-up service did, ADSL relies on your copper phone line to connect you to the internet.

The most noticeable difference being that you can make calls from your landline and use the internet at the same time on ADSL.

Back in the dark days of dial-up, it was an either/or situation. You couldn’t do both at the same time.

What is nbn™ satellite internet?

Also known as Sky Muster™ and Sky Muster™ Plus, nbn™ satellite internet services have been specifically designed to reach some of the most remote and toughest parts of Australia to deliver internet infrastructure.

This happens via two satellites in space that beam a signal to a satellite dish on your house somewhere (usually on your roof or on the side of your home).

Check out our far more detailed post here on how nbn™ satellite internet actually works

Become a pro at internet jargon

Is nbn™ satellite internet more reliable than ADSL?

The reliability of any internet service will depend on a number of factors. Weather and distance are two of the big ones, alongside the age and maintenance of infrastructure supporting the technology concerned. Other factors can include network congestion, electromagnetic interference, hardware, software and vegetation.

Let’s talk about age

ADSL relies on infrastructure that is more than a century old. That would be fine if it was well maintained but, in many cases, it simply hasn’t been looked after properly.

By contrast, the satellites powering nbn’s Sky Muster™ and Sky Muster™ Plus services were only launched in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

What impact does distance have on each connection type?

ADSL speeds and stability are dependent on your distance from the telephone exchange. The further away you are, the slower your internet experience. The best you can hope for is 24Mbps from ADSL2+ and that requires you to live within 300 metres of the exchange.

Given most rural and remote Australian properties are a very long distance from the telephone exchange, it’s fair to say that ADSL has very poor coverage in these areas.

Distance doesn’t play a factor in satellite internet speed because the two satellites orbiting in space provide coverage to the entire continent. You can literally live anywhere without worrying how far you are from the closest telephone exchange.

What impact does the weather have on ADSL and nbn™ satellite internet?

The weather in Australia is a formidable opponent for us mere mortals. All year-round Australians battle with weather events impacting a variety of day-to-day activities. Internet connections are no different.

Heavy rain can have a huge impact on ADSL services. It is a well-known cause of outages for those 100-year-old copper lines. Think about the cracking old-fashioned land lines used to get after it had been raining. These are the same copper lines that ADSL rely on.

Those same lines also experience breakage during cold weather as a result of ground movement. If the lines break, the end result is no internet connection for you.

Satellite internet is not immune to the impacts of weather, but it is somewhat less problematic.

Severe storms and heavy winds can cause issues, but we know of at least one example of Sky Muster™ performing perfectly normally in a blizzard while the satellite was covered in snow!

BIRRR Facebook post from Sky Muster customer who is happy her satellite dish is covered in snow – pictured – and her internet service still works.

[CAPTION: Found on BIRRR Facebook Group feed]

What about upload and download speeds?

ADSL has really poor upload speeds which means you’ll find it very slow to send large emails and upload large files.

You’ll also experience frustratingly low quality when it comes to video conferencing which is very problematic for running a business, working from home or studying online.

“The average Australian ADSL2+ speed is 8Mbps”

[Source: WhistleOut]

Satellite internet users will have quite a different experience coming from ADSL.

Upload speed is excellent my comparison and enables you to send emails much faster, upload files quickly and enjoy higher quality video conferencing.

Download speeds can also reach around 23Mbps on satellite as opposed to the average 8Mbps on ADSL2+.

You do need to be aware of latency with satellite internet however.

The satellites powering Sky Muster™ Internet connections across rural and regional Australia are almost 36,000 kilometres above the Earth.

Every time you take an action on the Internet and get a response, the signal from your computer needs to make its way across that 36,000 kilometres into space and back again, twice.

It’s a hell of a long way to go on a round trip into space and back twice, but it still only takes the signal 600 milliseconds (0.6 seconds)!

[CAPTION: Sky Muster customer Scott talks about his experience with satellite internet to run his small business from home while living off-grid]

In summary

Satellite internet connects more residents of rural and remote Australia simply because it doesn’t depend on you living close to a telephone exchange.

But it also offers an all-round better experience that ADSL, including discounts for some students.

If you have more questions about differences in technology types, hit us up on Facebook.

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Louise Hughes
Written by Louise Hughes

Louise has had a life-long love affair with beautiful words; writing because it drives her, and reading because it feeds her soul. She's the luckiest woman alive to be able to create clever content and intelligent customer experiences for a living.

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