Indigo Telecom makes ploy for satellite broadband

New Ka-band VSAT hub to usher in hundredfold satellite data cost reduction

Brisbane-based satellite communications provider Indigo Telecom is expected to launch a very small aperture terminal (VSAT) hub in coming months capable of utilising technology that would provide speeds competitive with current fixed line broadband connections at a lower cost than initially capable.

The hub, to be deployed in the second or third quarters of this year following negotiations with US vendors in March, will operate over the C, Ku and Ka microwave bands. The Ka-band is intended to provide additional broadband bandwidth than is currently available in the Australian market.

“We’ve just finalised the paperwork to make the necessary licensing applications,” the company’s chief executive, David Ruddiman, said.

While it currently costs some $200-300 to transfer each megabyte under existing satellite technologies, Ruddiman said the Ka-band capability could reduce this to $2-3, potentially signalling a "game changer" for the market.

“The reality is I think that there has been a history of satellite seen as being inferior in technology and in bandwdith, capacity and everything else and, to an extent, that’s true,” he said.

“I think the game has shifted remarkably with the introduction of Hughes’ and ViaSat’s new 100gig plus satellites with Ka-band rather than Ku. There’s a shift away, particularly with your fixed satellite services to satellites that have much larger capacity.”

NBN Co plans to spend up to $1 billion to launch two of its own Ka-band satellites by 2015 using the same Ka-band technology to provide guaranteed speeds of 12 megabits per second (Mbps) to the three per cent of Australian premises not covered by fibre or fixed wireless technology. Though Indigo Telecom does not plan to tender for the interim or final aspects of NBN Co’s satellite plans, Ruddiman told Computerworld Australia the provider would ultimately look to become a wholesale purchaser of capacity from the operator.

Despite the hub’s launch, there are no plans to significantly change existing arrangements with satellite vendor Thuraya.

“We think they’re complementary because one’s mobile satellite services, the other’s going to be more wireless fixed solutions, so we’re not going to move away from that all,” Ruddiman said.

Indigo Telecom is also expected to announce agreements with two major retail distribution networks for its satellite telephony products, which Ruddiman hoped would provide 15,000 additional subscribers to the Indigo Telecom network over the next 12 months. The company is still aiming to sign up 120,000 customers out of a potential one million subscribers within the first three years of inception.

The company will leverage the deal it struck with Telstra Wholesale last year to provide both GSM and satellite services through a single phone with one SIM card, and will offer both reduced hardware costs through both the Federal Government’s existing satellite phone subsidy scheme and a hardware subsidy built into the provider’s own plans.

Indigo Telecom prepared ‘office-in-a-box’ satellite communications kits for customers and some relief organisations in the aftermath of the recent Queensland flood disaster and Cyclone Yasi, allowing such clients to use the hardware as a live trial of the system prior to signing contracts with the company.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags Indigo TelecomsatelliteNetworkingTelecommunications

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