Thursday, 09 July 2015 05:00

Defence extends Optus satellite contract Featured

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Australia’s Department of Defence has signed a contract extending its satellite deal with Optus until 2020.

The deal covers the managed services contract for the C1 satellite, which has been in force since the launch of the C1 satellite in 2003.

The C1 is the Australian Defence Force’s main satellite, supporting operations in Australia and the region. The Optus contract involves command and control of the Optus C1 Defence payload, and extends the provision of these services through the life of Optus C1.

Commodore David Greaves, Commander Defence Strategic Communications in the Defence Chief Information Officer Group said: “The Defence Payload on Optus C1 provided the ADF with its first sovereign satellite communications capability. The extension of this important agreement to the satellite’s end of life reinforces this important relationship with Optus.

“As an enduring component of the Australian Defence Force’s satellite communications capability, Optus C1 provides critical enabling service for training and operations in Australia and the region.” No mention that Optus is owned by SingTel, itself part owned by the Singaporean Government, which means a crucial part of Australia’s defence infrastructure is in foreign hands,

The C1 satellite was jointly funded by Optus and the Australian Department of Defence, and at the time was the largest hybrid communications and military satellite launched. It is controlled from Optus’s satellite earth station in the northern Sydney suburb of Terry Hills.

The C1 satellite has 24 Ku-band transponders operating in beams covering Australia, New Zealand, the nearby offshore islands, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii and South East Asia. As well as its role for Defence, it carries subscription TV services and Free-to-Air radio and television services to remote areas in Australia.

The financial terms of the latest deal were not disclosed, but it comes a year after Optus signed a $19.5 million contract with the Department of Defence to extend its current satellite deal for four years. The new agreement extends that deal by at least two years.

In 2013 Optus tried to sell its satellite business. It couldn’t find a buyer, and decided to retain it. Since then it has won the contract to maintain the NBN satellites, and now this major contract is being renewed. It has also recently launched another satellite, Optus 10.

Optus’s strong presence in the satellite business is as a result of its genesis in the 1980s as Aussat, Australia’s government-owned satellite company. It was privatised and ended up in SingTel’s hands during the deregulation of Australian telecoms in the early 1990s.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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