NBN Co has snapped up a subsidiary of subscription television provider Austar in a $120 million deal that will give the National Broadband Network (NBN) wholesaler wireless spectra needed to roll out fixed wireless services to four per cent of Australian premises.
Under the deal, NBN Co will pay $58 million for subsidiary which holds spectrum licences for the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands, with a further $62 million paid for the assignment of the subsidiary’s debt.
The first NBN Co fixed wireless commercial services are scheduled for delivery in mid 2012. NBN Co has previously outlined plans to deliver next-generation wireless and satellite services to seven per cent of premises outside its fibre footprint, with at least four per cent of those premises receiving the fixed wireless offering.
The move was first predicted in September last year by NextDC chief executive, Bevan Slattery, who said the reprioritisation of the NBN rollout could yield significant cash for Austar.
Austar chief executive, John Porter, said it was a great result for regional Australians.
“There is no doubt that NBN Co will build broadband services in regional Australia very efficiently with consumers outside metropolitan markets finally gaining access to world-class broadband services,” Porter said in a statement.
According to Porter, the NBN Co deal differed from Austar’s 2008 deal with Optus and OPEL, which included a combination of cash and various wholesale arrangements. Under the agreement, Austar sold the same bands of spectrum - which it held in cohort with vividwireless predecessor Unwired at the time - to Optus for the creation of the Federal Government's proposed WiMAX network, which was scrapped in favour of a fibre-based proposal that year.
Vividwireless owner Wireless Broadband Australia also recently sold a portion of its 2.3GHz spectrum band to energy utility EnergyAustralia, which the latter company has used to deploy a mix of WiMAX and Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks.
“NBN Co’s wholesale model will provide a level playing field for all service providers. By retailing NBN Co services, Austar will be able to offer consumers a broader range of products than we would have by building our own network,” he said.
Austar group director corporate development, Deanne Weir, said the company would concentrate on developing its content delivery platform beyond its current satellite delivered customer base of 30 per cent of regional homes.
According to NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, the network will be based on technologies aimed at providing the most cost-effective rollout of services to meet the needs of Australians wherever they live or work, on a standardised, ubiquitous network.
The company recently announced its pricing for wholesale broadband services starting at download speeds of 12 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 1Mbps upstream for a uniform national wholesale access price of $24 per month. The fixed wireless and satellite portions of the network will provide those speeds as a minimum, which fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) services are guaranteed to provide speeds of 100Mbps and up to one gigabit per second.
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