Outback entering 21st century with satellite comms

Australian Business Technologies (ABT) is planning to launch a national communications company in late 1999, to deliver satellite-based services to regional and rural Australia.

Having struck a distribution deal with Israeli satellite provider Gilat Satellite Networks, ABT will be launching digital communications services, primarily via satellite, across Australia's outback, from January 2000.

ABT and Gilat signed the deal last month, when ABT officials travelled to Israel on a trade mission, led by Senator Richard Alston, federal minister for communications, information technology and the arts.

The new company's first offerings will be aimed at regional businesses and regional ISPs.

They will include Internet, videoconferencing, e-commerce and voice offerings, which will be beamed to regional areas from a central hub in Sydney.

"In a 21st century Australia, there is no reason why the bush cannot have access to the same service levels enjoyed in the city," said Ilario Faenza, director in charge of regional communications, ABT.

"Now that access technology such as dishes for sending and receiving are becoming [commodities], access is quick, easy and low cost."

"In the US, many people are now opting for satellite communications in preference to cable running past their front door."

Faenza said ABT is currently negotiating with a potential partner to offer satellite solutions for the retail market in country areas.

The company investigated alternatives to satellites, including microwave technologies, said Faenza, but found that regional population density was not sufficient to support a microwave-based solution.

ABT's contract to provide communications services for the NSW Department of Community Services highlighted an opportunity to provide enhanced bandwidth to regional areas, Faenza said.

"Working with DOCS in regional NSW for three years highlighted the need for world-class communications services in regional and rural Australia," he said.

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