Satellite provider set to expand coverage under new subsidy regime

IPSTAR planning additional services

Subsidies made available under the federal government's $162.5 million Broadband Guarantee program will allow IPSTAR Australia, a subsidiary of Thailand's Shin Satellite Plc, to expand its coverage and services.

The program makes available a $2,750 subsidy per satellite service.

IPSTAR claims the new subsidy regime allows it to service customers in metropolitan black spot areas as well as its existing rural and remote markets.

General manager of the satellite provider, Teerasak Sawekpun, said there has been requests for a true broadband solution from people who live in outer metropolitan areas, who have not previously been eligible for a satellite broadband subsidy.

"The Broadband Guarantee takes advantage of significant improvements in IPSTAR and satellite broadband technology in general," Sawekpun said.

"IPSTAR is currently delivering next generation satellite broadband services through multiple Broadband Connect accredited service providers.

"IPSTAR has been very successful in promoting its services, with take up increasing from just a few hundred customers a month in May 2006 to in excess of 2,500 customers per month so far this year."

At the same time, IPSTAR is planning additional services, including voice, movies and long distance learning applications.

Sawekpun said IPSTAR has accumulated a backlog of more than 15,000 IPSTAR User Terminals valued at $17 million for deployment in the first half of this year.

"We are working hard to make sure we supply our hardware in a timely manner and reduce customer installation lead time." he said.

Warren Ingerson, executive director of Australia Private Network (APN), a major service provider of IPSTAR, said the Broadband Guarantee program will increase takeup.

Introduction of the program has been controversial as it replaces the Broadband Connect Incentive Program, which was previously scheduled to run until June 30, 2007.

One provider hit by the cancellation of the federal government's Broadband Connect program has been South Australian-based Internode which suspended its regional broadband rollout last week.

For the past three years, Internode has used the program to assist with its investment in building broadband infrastructure in regional Australia.

Without these per-customer subsidies, delivering broadband in rural areas is commercially unviable, according to Simon Hackett, Internode managing director.

But Internet Service Provider (ISP), Koala Telecom labelled Internode's claims as rubbish pointing out that it hasn't received one red cent from the government's Broadband Connect program.

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