The Northern Territory’s government has called for fixed wireless instead of satellite to be used to deliver broadband to remote communities in the NT, accusing NBN’s Sky Muster service of delivering “poor performance”.
Some NT communities are receiving satellite connections “even where the communities have existing, state of the art terrestrial telecommunications connections,” the Territory’s government argued in a submission to parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network.
In addition to the latency of satellite affecting the delivery of some online applications, including some telehealth services, the “nature of extreme weather conditions common within the Northern Territory, especially in the coastal regions, makes satellite unreliable due to rain fade and loss of signal”.
“In a natural disaster satellite communications are likely to fail precisely at the time a community needs them the most,” the submission argued.
The fair use policy imposed on Sky Muster services unfairly discriminates against remote communities, the NT government argued.
“After a meeting between various National and State primary industry bodies and associations late last year, it seems that NBN Co executive and the Australian Government were not aware of solutions to the broadband issues in the bush and the sheer scale of the challenge,” the NT government argued.
The Territory’s government in November approached the federal government and asked for 34 remote NT communities to receive fixed wireless based on existing fibre. Regional communications minister, Senator Fiona Nash, replied that the government was not involved in NBN’s technology selection and design decisions.
The government-commissioned 2015 Regional Telecommunications Review recommended that in order to give the best possible outcome for regional users, NBN “should where practicable extend the boundaries of its Fixed Wireless footprint as a substitute for satellite”.
“The Government notes that existing policy already allows NBN Co to match the right technology to the right location,” the government’s response to the review stated. “This approach will see the network finished as soon as possible at the least cost to taxpayers.”
In its response to the review, the federal government also noticed that in December 2015 NBN shifted 40,000 premises that had been slated to get satellite connections onto other technologies.
“The Northern Territory Government maintains that, given the Australian Government’s stated position
on the reuse of existing telecommunications infrastructure, the use of satellite as the network platform
for broadband delivery where existing infrastructure is available must be avoided in order to provide a
suitable solution for residents in remote areas of the Northern Territory,” the NT government said in its submission.