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Wednesday, 08 February 2012 08:40

Space Systems/Loral tipped to win $600m NBN Co satellite contract

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Communications minister Stephen Conroy is expected to announce today that US satellite manufacture Space Systems/Loral has been awarded a contract worth about $600m for two geostationary satellites to deliver NBN services to about three percent of homes beyond the economic reach of wireless or fibre services.

The Australian Financial Review reported that the deal had been struck, and then seemed to confuse the provision of satellites with the provision of satellite services.

NBN has yet to let a contract for operation of the earth segment of the satellite network, and has not indicated whether it will also outsource provision of services over the satellites to a third party.

However the AFR reported that "Despite signing up a range of high-profile customers [Australian satellite service provider NewSat] was not able to get on the short list of NBN Co's satellite providers." In Fact NewSat has itself just awarded a contract for a geostationary satellite - its planned Jabiru-1 - to Lockheed Martin.

NBN Co CEO, Mike Quigley, told the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the National Broadband Network last October that NBN Co expected to make its purchasing decision for two satellites for the national broadband network within the next "couple of months" before turning its attention to finding a supplier for its earth-based satellite services. He expected services on the planned satellites to be delivered to the bush on time in 2015.

Quigley said it was not practical to try to provide ongoing satellite services to the bush by sharing space on existing platforms, given the bandwidth of services NBN Co is obligated to provide.

"The only satellites similar to the ones that we are going to be launching are being launched over North America. These are big, 80Gbps per second Ka-band satellites with multiple spot beams. Its simply not a practical engineering proposition to share capacity on a satellite ... even if one were available."

NewSat's satellite plans go back to 2007 when it proposed to the Federal Government plans for its own satellite. It expected to fund $100m of the estimate cost itself, $100m from potential partners and get Government funding already set aside for telecommunications to provide the rest.

The proposed Ka band satellite was to have been built by Space Systems/Loral, but the government rejected the offer. NewSat tried again in July 2008 in a submission to the Expert Group working on the NBN Mark 1 (FTTN version).


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