Big question marks still hang over how the seven to 10 per cent of the Australian population not covered by optical fibre under the National Broadband Network (NBN) will receive high-speed broadband.
Speaking via video conference at a Senate Select Committee on the NBN, Professor Reg Coutts said despite the recent release of the NBN Implementation study, further discussion and detail was required on the role to be played by satellite and wireless services.
“I’m a bit of an optimist and I’m hopeful that the things I see and hear are happening [on the NBN]… but I think that until the government is really clear on the 10 per cent — who is the 10 percent — then the [NBN] plan is not complete,” Coutts said.
According to Coutts, the satellite sector in particular, to which he is a paid consultant, needs greater support as it can provide a much higher level of service to a wider percentage of the Australian population.
“Look at the Wild Blue service offered in the US. In some areas of the US customers have the choice of DSL or broadband satellite. Amazingly, from the Australia experience, they choose satellite,” he said.
Comparing the US satellite market to Australia’s, Coutts said some 200-300,000 households in Australia were covered by satellite compared to an estimated 10 million in the US. As a result the local satellite sector needed government support to help grow its scale.
“The satellite brand has been damaged in Australia,” he said.
“People are happy with subscription TV via satellite and don’t think of it as inferior, but satellite for telecommunications has been disappointing, and actual delivery of service has been below what really one could expect in north America or European environment.”
Using current KU band satellites, a service of 12Mbps – superior to some ADSL services -- could already be provided. However, the issue of latency meant that some satellite services were inferior to ADSL, Coutts said.
Commenting on the provision of wireless services to households not covered by the fibre-based NBN, Coutts said that the NBN Co should not be the sole provider of these service.
Instead, the greater use of regional-based wireless internet service providers should be made to maintain a competitive and efficient wireless offering to consumers.
“NBCo is doing wonderful job of the optical footprint but concerning the provision of service with wireless access, they certainly don’t have the capability at the moment – but they could acquire it,” he said.
“The wireless space is competitive at the moment and should be kept that way to keep it that way.”
As reported by Computerworld Australia Coutts in May talked down the prospect of the NBN's cancellation if the Federal Opposition came to power at the next election.