Even with satellites, regional Australia prefers fibre-to-the-home: Conroy

Communications minister finds communities such as Coffs Harbour still pining for fibre-to-the-home

Even as the government is busy setting up deals for orbital satellites as part of the NBN, Minister for Broadband, Communications, and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said small communities in regional Australia would still prefer fibre-to-the-home.

Conroy's observation is based on a recent visit to NSW’s Coffs Harbour, where the NBN was launched to an “excited group of residents.”

What the Minister also found was that the local MP, Federal member for Cowper and shadow Minister for regional telecommunications, Luke Hartsuyker, was allegedly saying “you should not have [the NBN], you don’t want this, and you don’t need these speeds.”

“That’s not what the people in Coffs Harbour are saying, nor around Australia,” Conroy said.

“What they are saying they desperately want to be in the fibre footprint.”

Conroy concedes that the NBN's fibre will not reach 100 per cent of Australians, but points out that the government has said this “from day one” and the rest will be covered by wireless and satellite.

However, the quality of the service that will be delivered with satellites, notably with the ones being sent up by Arianespace, is superior to what people are getting over traditional copper setup.

“It is better than the copper networks in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne delivers today,” he said.

Conroy said the government is committed to bringing the NBN to 93 per cent of Australia’s population, with costs holding the scheme back from reaching the remaining seven per cent.

“The satellites will deliver a service that exceeds the quality of service Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne get today,” he said.

Like it or lump it

One of the reasons the government is confident about delivering a high quality of service with satellites is because the number of users on it will be restricted.

According to Conroy, this is a “straight mathematical circumstance.”

“If in the future [Opposition shadow minister] Malcolm Turnbull or [Opposition leader] Tony Abbott want to put more Australians onto these satellites than they are designed for, you will undermine the actual capacity and quality of service,” he said.

Conroy adds that a couple of extra 100,000 Australians can not be lumped onto a satellite and be expected to get the same quality that the NBN is guaranteeing.

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.

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