Two satellites will be built to deliver high speed broadband to rural and remote Australia by 2015, the Federal Government announced yesterday.
The $620 million satellites will be used to deliver broadband coverage to the estimated three percent of premises that will be outside the reach of NBN Co’s fibre-optic and fixed wire satellites.
The advanced satellites will be designed to deliver "fast and affordable broadband", according to the Federal Government, with better speed and reliability than existing satellite services.
NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley said they will deliver initial peak speeds of 12 megabit per second download/ one megabit per second upload at the same wholesale access price as similar fibre services elsewhere.
“It will be possible for retail service providers to offer services to homes and businesses in the satellite footprint that are as good or better than the services many city people currently experience,” Mr Quigley said.
The first satellite is due for launch in the first half of 2015 and the other in the second half of 2015.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that in addition to the fixed wireless and fibre networks of the National Broadband Network, the two satellites will create universal broadband coverage across the entire Australian continent, and its external territories, for the first time.
“This will ensure high speed broadband is delivered to Australia’s remotest towns, such as Calvert in the Northern Territory and Bandya in Western Australia,” she said.
“Using these satellites, people in remote communities will be able to consult with medical specialists anywhere in Australia by videolink.
“Students in the bush will be able to have a dramatically improved education experience by being able to draw upon the latest content-rich, high bandwidth digital resources from anywhere in the world.
“This will help bridge the digital divide between urban and regional communities.”
The new next generation Ka-band satellites, to be built by Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), would deliver a “step-change in performance” for satellite users, both in terms of speed and reliability, compared with existing satellite services, Ms Gillard said yesterday.
Rather than splitting capacity between a number of other tasks such as satellite phones and
broadcast television, or focused on providing services in other countries, the new Ka-band
broadband satellites will have multiple high-capacity beams designed to maximise the efficiency
of the broadband service specifically for Australia, the NBN Co said.
SS/L has manufactured the largest number of commercial Ka-band satellites in the world. SS/L
has 67 satellites in orbit and 23 satellites under construction, representing a mix of
broadband and other types of satellites.
The existing copper network will continue to be available in the areas outside NBN Co’s fibre footprint. That means the Universal Service Obligation, including the availability of a fixed-line voice service, will continue to be provided.
NFF welcomes announcement
The National Farmers’ Federation said the announcement proved the Government was listening to its concerns about regional communities being left by the wayside when it comes to telecommunications.
“In our submission to the Regional Telecommunications Review in December, we called for the Government to ensure that all rural and regional Australians have equal access to reliable and affordable telecommunications,” Mr Laurie said.
“We believe it’s essential that farming families, rural businesses and country communities have equal accessibility, reliability, quality and affordability in the broadband services they access as those in urban areas do.
“In our submission, we asked for the Government to commit to the delivery of improved technology to access broadband for people who live on properties outside the cities and towns.
“Agriculture is a very technologically-savvy industry, and there is enormous opportunity for new technology – if the telecommunications infrastructure can support it. And rural businesses rely on the same access to internet services to conduct their business as those in urban areas do.
“We welcome this commitment from the Government, and their acknowledgement that those who live in rural, regional and remote area should not be disadvantaged when it comes to telecommunications.
“Unfortunately rural Australians have often had negative experiences with the reliability of existing satellite services and services provided by retailers, leaving many sceptical.
“The Government will need to work hard to convince farmers and regional communities that this will be different – and the proof will be in the pudding.
“We’re looking forward to the day when all Australians have equal access to telecommunications – and we will work with Government to ensure that the commitment made today is upheld and delivered,” Mr Laurie said.
'Actual speed may vary…'
NBN Co's Long Term Satellite Service is designed to provide a download speed of up to 12Mbps at the wholesale level.
However its fine print includes a rider that says those speeds will be delivered to NBN Co's wholesale customers, which are Internet Service Providers.
"Speeds actually achieved by retail customers (end users) will depend on a number of factors including the quality of their equipment and in-premises connection, the broadband plans offered by their ISP and how their ISP designs its network to cater for multiple end users."
The same speed and AVC access price ($24 per month) will be offered across NBN Co's fibre, wireless and satellite.
Further information is available on the NBN Co website at http://www.nbnco.com.au