NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, has dismissed concerns raised by shadow communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, that the risk of missing out on allocated slots could delay the launch of the two Ka-band satellites planned for the National Broadband Network (NBN).
During a parliamentary committee hearing, Turnbull asked Quigley whether or not NBN Co had secured the orbital slots required for the two satellites.
Quigley responded that NBN Co had not received a formal slot approval from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) — which determines where the satellites will sit in orbit — as the process could take years to finalise. However, he added that the company will continue preparing the satellite development for launch in those slots as it is confident the slots will be granted.
Turnbull then criticised this and raised the question of whether NBN Co would run into the risk of missing out on the allocated slots, to which Quigley denied.
“It is not uncommon that people launch satellites without that process being completed,” Quigley said.
“[I]t’s not unprecedented that they will have a satellite in orbit before the formality of the process is complete. We don’t anticipate that by the way. We expect formalities will be completed well before we launch any satellite.”
Quigley added that if NBN Co waited the years required for the ITU to approve this process, satellite services to rural and regional Australia would be held back for years.
Quigley also put ‘risk’ into some perspective by pointing to the possibility of the satellites failing at launch which poses a risk that is “magnitudes higher” than the possibility of the slot allocation falling through.
“There are a lot of other risks in the NBN project; this is not one we worry about,” he said.
Department of Broadband secretary, Peter Harris, added: “We have a high degree of assurance they will have the necessary slots by launch.”
The satellites, to be built by manufacturer Space Systems/Loral, will deliver initial peak broadband speeds of 12/1 Mbps to 3 per cent of premises outside of the NBN’s reach.
The first satellite is expected to launch in early 2015, with the second to be launched later that year.
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