US company ViaSat has won a contract from NBN Co worth at least $280 million to supply equipment for the Long Term Satellite Service (LTSS) for the National Broadband Network (NBN).
The contract follows a two-year procurement process, with a request for capabilities for suppliers originally announced in January 2010 - NBN Co told Computerworld Australia the long procurement process was “designed to deliver experienced and qualified suppliers who represent value for money”.
NBN Co's initial plan was to spend around $1 billion on two Ka-band satellites. At a December 2009 Federal Government conference, Realising our Broadband Future, NBN Co’s CEO, Mike Quigley, also suggested satellites could hopefully be launched by 2010.
NBN Co is now investing $2 billion in its LTSS, with satellites scheduled to launch in 2015.
ViaSat will manufacture and supply communications equipment to areas of Australia which will receive the NBN via satellite, including two 13.5 metre-wide satellite antennas for 10 ground stations. So far, NBN Co has announced several locations for ground stations, including Geeveston in Tasmania, Bourke in NSW and Wolumla, near Merimbula on the South Coast of NSW.
ViaSat will also also provide household satellite dishes and implement technology in NBN Co’s data centres to manage the integration of the LTSS with the NBN.
It is the second contract NBN Co has signed with a US company for satellites, with the company signing a $620 million deal with US company Space Systems/Loral (SSL) in February this year to build two Ka-band satellites.
NBN Co would not reveal what other companies or how many were also in contention for the $280 million contract.
“…the decision to select ViaSat was based on the company’s ability to provide a quality service and value for money. The company offers a robust, reliable architecture that can effectively mitigate key technical risks commonly associated with rolling out a state-of-the-art carrier grade network,” NBN Co told Computerworld Australia.
Malcolm Turnbull, shadow minister for communications and broadband, has been highly critical of NBN Co’s investment in satellites for the NBN. Following the SS/L contract announcement in February this year, he stated there is “enough capacity on private satellites already in orbit or scheduled for launch for the NBN to deliver broadband to the 200,000 or so premises in remote Australia without building its own.
“When these two NBN satellites are launched, there will be huge spare capacity on them. Once again, the NBN is investing more than is needed to achieve its mission. Once again, the incentive will be for this giant new government monopoly to intrude into other markets and undermine existing private sector providers.”
Satellites will provide peak wholesale speeds of up to 12/1Mbps to regional Australia. Until the LTSS comes into operation, premises will connect to the NBN via NBN Co’s Interim Satellite Service.
NBN Co is due to announce another major contract as part of the LTSS for the launch of the satellites into space.
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