NBN Co to spend circa $1 billion on satellites

Two KA band satellites will supply around two per cent of NBN capacity

The NBN Co will spend up to $1 billion on two KA band satellites to deliver National Broadband Network (NBN) services to Australian households unable to access coverage via fibre or wireless.

The plan, announced at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia’s (CEDA) recent 2010 ICT Review conference in South Australia by NBN Co chief executive officer, Mike Quigley, will see two satellites launched to deliver around two per cent of the total capacity of the NBN.

“We will cover the whole country with satellite,” he said. “The fact is even within 40 or 50 kilometres of Sydney and Melbourne there are places you can only get to with satellite. Fibre is too difficult to get to them and the terrain is such that you just can’t get propagation of the wireless signal effectively and get a reliable service.”

Outlining the plans for satellite services under the NBN, Quigley said the decision to spend up to $500 million each on two satellites was prompted by a current lack of viable satellite services.

“There is simply nowhere near enough the capacity in today’s satellite services over Australia to provide the sorts of services we are talking about – that is, close to the wireless service of 12 Megabits [per second] at peak and be able to do a lot of bandwidth,” Quigley said.

The news may come as a surprise to some in the Australian satellite industry, notably NewSat, which earlier this month argued that it could deliver broadband speeds of “better than” 100 Mbps to the seven per cent of Australia not covered by the NBN’s fibre network and for an equivalent cost.

According to Quigley, having two satellites would allow for the NBN Co to provide redundancy as well as maximise capacity and speeds.

“You could potentially do it with one [satellite], but the trouble is if we have some 200,000 premises on a satellite -- they take roughly four years to design, build and launch into orbit -- and so if one of them … gets hit by a piece of space junk, I don’t want to wake up one morning and find that 200,000 people without a service and it will take four years to restore it,” he said.

NBN Co was also investigating technology which would allow premises receiving satellite broadband to automatically switch over coverage between satellites to get the best possible speed, and also in the event of a failure in one of the satellites.

“We are dimensioning the capacity on the satellites,” he said. “With the new generation satellites you can get capacities in the 30s, 40s, even approaching 100 Gigabits.”

Wireless being overhauled

Commenting on the role of wireless technology under the NBN, Quigley said the NBN Co was currently investigating the reuse of around 2000 cellular sites around Australia to maximise limited spectrum available to the NBN Co.

“What we are trying to do is make sure we overcome some of the issues you do have with normal mobile networks,” he said. “Because we have to use that spectrum, because it is so expensive to get it out these distances, we do need to modify the [wireless] product slightly. Clearly we can’t do 100 Megabits per second – it has to be dimensioned a little differently.

“If you are in the wireless coverage area it should not be variable, in terms of the performance speed. The performance you get at the edge of the cell should be just about the same at the centre of the cell.

“We will be dimensioning this network almost an order of magnitude more traffic than what a mobile carrier does today.”

NBN’s business case

The NBN Co boss also gave one of the strongest indications that the National Broadband Network was never meant to have a business case supporting its existence, stating that he, and fellow private-sector staff at NBN Co, were in the process of reorienting themselves to the NBN’s raison d'être.

“Our job is not to necessarily maximise the bottom line,” he said. “The job is to implement government policy as quickly and as efficiently as we can.

“This is not a normal commercial venture. A normal commercial entity would not do this job. What they would do, is what all of us would do if we were running a business and trying to maximise the bottom line: we would go and pick off those areas where there are high densities and customers who can pay [the most].”

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18 Comments

Peter

1

What a waste! A billion dollars for a wireless service limited by bandwidth, suffering lag of 100ms+, affected by bad weather. Anyone with a sky dish will tell you its rubbish. Why so much money on a bad technology for less than 1% of the population. Conroy is definately smoking crack. There is much better ways of doing things.

Sam

2

Peter,

I'm guessing you can't read..

"Fibre is too difficult to get to them and the terrain is such that you just can’t get propagation of the wireless signal effectively and get a reliable service.”

Satelite will be fine for the last customers

Karlston

3

Satellite is pathetic, I pity the poor people who get lumbered with it. Very high latency so forget VoIP, forget online gaming, and get used to jerky media playback. And there is no technology that can change these facts!

D Newman

4

/FACEPALM..........

Peter and Kariston all you have done here is proven that you cant read more than one paragraph and absorb the full jist of an article, you just dont get the point.

Read again slower, then read again, then construct in your mind how to get better than dial up to people in rugged/mountainous isolated areas.

Then shout F^^K them im alright and post, oh wait you have already done that.

gnome

5


The point's already been well made - two way sat can be annoying because of the inevitable signal distance issues, but it is a hell of a lot better than dialup or nothing at all.

Amigo1985

6

as a former ISDN customer of Telstra (with which I was content), the main limitation of my current 2way satellite service is the occasional blips in service, and the expense of higher speed and download capacity. If they can't put fibre through to my home (20k away from major rural centre), or put in a decent wireless service, (the hills mean I have no NextG connection), then I am happy that they will provide a cheaper, faster, higher capacity satellite service.

Michael

7

Hello,

Amigo1985 - Who do you use for satellite service? My parents just bought a farm in regional vic which is only serviced by satellite internet.

How much for installation/ cost per month and what is the speed/data cap?

Thanks very much in advance, its hard to find legit answers doing a google search or on whirlpool forums!

Francis

8

The reality is that 2% of premises in Australia cannot be viably reached by fibre or wireless. Even though the half-second lightspeed transit delay to a geostationary satellite makes VoIP very unpleasant, it is better than nothing. The new Ka-Band satellites will also be capable of HDTV streaming, except for localities experiencing a thunderstorm.

The alternative is wireless, but the cost of a tower cannot be justified if there are only a handful of premises within its effective radius, and multiple towers are needed if there are too many premises. The maths has been done, and this is the best the taxpayer can do for now for the last 300,000 remote or isolated premises.

Francis

9

Oh, and even wireless is susceptible to signal dropouts, making VoIP calls drop out. Like satellite, it is a mobility and fibre blackspot solution that is quite inferior to a fixed service.

Zag

10

So it's gone from we're only doing Fibre and that's it!

To we're going to be doing Fibre and if you can't get that then your stuck on Sat.

oh and we might bother with mobile if you can do 200megagig in the centre of the cell to 100megagig on the edge of the cell only but alas that doesn't exist so don't expect us to do anything with mobile services.

I guess this'll be the start of well if we can't get to your area before X date then your going to be put onto sat and you'll bloody well like it!!!

Oh! and it might take 8+ years to get to your area you know metro cities are more important.

I wonder what they'll do for those people who are in metro areas yet can't get access to Fibre/DSL/Mobile services?

Francis

11

According to an Age article last Friday, the government plans to soon launch a website where you can search your address to see which technology (i.e. fibre, wireless or satellite in descending order of desirability) was identified in the May 2010 McKinsey Implementation Report as the best solution deliverable cost effectively.

This will certainly answer a lot of questions, and may identify some localities where local initiatives by councils, business or community groups might be able to make a fibre option viable in some cases.

Still, anyone who thinks taxpayer-funded fibre is possible for every isolated address, even if it is relatively near to a city, will be disappointed. The last 2% will get satellite.

gnome

12

@Zag: "So it's gone from we're only doing Fibre and that's it!"

Dunno what you're smokin', but it seems that not much of your rant actually matches what's on the the record.

It's always been obvious, and stated, that there would need to be ancilliary supplements to the fibre network to provide access for most of the people who were not able to be reached with fibre.

You're not a Telstra shareholder by any chance, are you?

sugarcoated

13

I pity the fools that will get this sub-standard service, and who will have to eat it and like it, with a smile.

RS

14

@#10.

gnome is 100% correct and you 100% incorrect, please at least educate yourself minimally before displaying such ignorance.

Here's the initial 7 April 2009, NBN announcement URL

http://www.minister.dbcde.gov.au/media/media_releases/2009/022

Pertinent points to answer your ignorance, from within -

The new superfast network will:

* connect homes, schools and workplaces with optical fibre (fibre to the premises or 'FTTP'), providing broadband services to Australians in urban and regional towns with speeds of 100 megabits per second - 100 times faster than those currently used by most people extending to towns with a population of around 1,000 or more people

* use next generation wireless and satellite technologies that will be able to deliver 12 megabits per second or more to people living in more remote parts of rural Australia

* provide fibre optic transmission links connecting cities, major regional centres and rural towns

* be expected to be rolled-out, simultaneously, in metropolitan, regional, and rural areas.

David

15

Well no doubt the cost benefit analysis demonstrates that this is a good investment for the country to make and there will be realisable benefits. Oh wait... that's a waste of time, waste of money, waste of space isn't it Senator Conroy

Rob

16

Good to see NBN Co investing and investigating more than 1 or technology's to provide broadband. There are places you simply will never cover with fibre and wireless. Satellite services are currently in a poor state, but that's partly due to older satellite technology and a lack of investment in that area. This should be welcome news for those that will forever have to use a satellite connection. A connection type that is available to 100% of the Australian land mass.

john

17

i just dont understand why they dont give existing companys like Newsat a go..
And possibly save tax payers money ..
why not let the experts run it...there in the satellite business..??

proeye

18

100% Satallite coverage not only to mailand Australia but offshore places as well. There are companies who provide VoIP over satellite to Aussies out there already. NBN Co will also use smart IP technologies to improve on latency issues.

In terms of NewSat providing the service. I'm not sure even if they have a bird in the sky yet. They've mentioned that they want to launch a bird next year. Have these guys even filed their intention with ITU to launch yet? What tech specs can these guys provide to the public of a systems that will serve 200,000 premises with capacity to provide 12 Mbps broadband, IPTV and a good telephone service. Will the 12 Mbps be shared or will it be guranteed per customer?

If NBN Co were to use a private company they would be better dealing with Optus. Optus has expertise in this area. They took over the Australian Government Satellite back in th 80's and launched more recently. These guys know what it takes and what it costs manage satellites.

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