Australia set to launch new satellite to plug digital blackspots

Satellite operator lines up to provide services, Govt tender possible

Australia could see a new satellite launched to help deliver digital TV to remote blackspots

Australia could see a new satellite launched to help deliver digital TV to remote blackspots

Satellite provider NewSat has welcomed a $160 million federal cash injection to supply remote areas with digital television and highlighted its plans to launch Australia’s first locally-owned satellite as a possible solution.

The project, dubbed Jabiru, has been in development since 2007 and is spearheading the company’s move to cash-in on the government initiative.

Company CEO Adrian Ballintine said the satellite will be able to serve the 247,000 homes identified by the government as located in digital TV blackspots.

“The satellite designed to provide 'Ka band' coverage across Australia will have a payload that accommodates the distribution of live broadcasting to the [blackspots],” Ballintine said in a written statement.

Under the plans, blackspot areas will be served via improvements to existing terrestrial broadcasting facilities, installation of repeaters to extend signals, and the addition of satellite services.

Broadcasters will spend some $18 million to upgrade 100 analogue transmission relay towers to digital.

Consumers receiving digital television signals will need to shell out about $300 for new satellite dishes, alongside a $300 government subsidy.

Layer 10 analyst Paul Brooks said the provision of satellite services is an issue of footprint, rather than capacity to supply digital television, and suggested the government may consider launching a new satellite to serve blackspot areas.

Telsyte analyst Greg Tsang said it may be more economically feasible to launch a dedicated satellite to supply broadband and digital TV, than to install terrestrial repeaters to geographically-dispersed areas.

“[The government] might find it cheaper to launch a satellite to supply a footprint to these areas rather than installing repeaters,” Tsang said.

Tsang said it is “not unreasonable” to expect a government tender for the supply of new satellite services, adding IPStar, AusSatCom, ITC Global Orion.

A spokesman for the communications department had not responded at the time of writing.

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