Optus provides satellite for Mobile Health NZ

Optus will provide satellite connectivity to a health company in NZ that aims to bring high-quality health education video-conferencing to rural areas.

Australian telecommunications carrier Optus has signed a deal to provide access to its satellite services to Mobile Health NZ, to enable the company to run video-conferencing health education sessions throughout rural areas.

The deal, signed between Optus affiliate internet service provider Wireless Nation and Mobile Health NZ, will see Optus provide satellite connectivity on an on-demand basis for the next 24 months.

Mobile Health NZ will connect to the satellite by pointing the satellite dish on the roof of its satellite van in the required direction at the press of a button.

"Together with Optus, we're pleased to be able to provide the connectivity required for such an important part of Mobile Health's business," Miro Sudzum, marketing manager for Wireless Nation, said in a statement.

"With a simple press of a button, Mobile Health is now able to provide educational series through video conferencing, no matter where they are in New Zealand. This is another step in connecting rural with urban NZ."

The NZ government's NZ$300 million Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), which is funded by an industry levy, also aims to bring high-speed wireless and mobile broadband to those living in rural and remote areas outside the footprint of the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) fibre network.

In August, NZ's governing National Party pledged to invest a further NZ$150 million to extend the RBI if re-elected.

The RBI had at the time reached 250,000 premises.

In October, NZ Minister for Communications Amy Adams announced that the RBI would increase its guaranteed peak speeds from just 5Mbps to 50Mbps for 99 percent of New Zealanders by 2025. By comparison, Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) aims to cover 100 percent of the population with fibre, hybrid fibre-coaxial, fixed-wireless, or satellite services with speeds of at least 25Mbps by 2020.

Adams in October also transferred responsibility for rolling out the RBI from the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment to Crown Fibre Holdings, which also manages the UFB rollout.

On its deal to provide connectivity through Wireless Nation to Mobile Health NZ, Optus said it welcomed the opportunity to extend its satellite services to another company in the region.

"Optus is pleased to be able to facilitate Wireless Nation's delivery of services to its rural-based customers," Paul Sheridan, vice president of Optus Satellite, said on Wednesday.

"We know the importance that businesses and consumers place on access to internet and telecommunications services, particularly when geography can inhibit access to those services.

Optus' satellite division owns the largest number of satellites covering Australia and NZ, with six satellites in orbit providing coverage to the region.

In November, Optus claimed that its mobile network covers 100 percent of Australia thanks to the launch of its SatSleeve satellite service -- as long as the customer is within line of sight of the satellite.

In July, the Australian Department of Defence also extended its contract with Optus for an undisclosed amount through to 2020 for use of their shared C1 satellite.

The Department of Defence and Optus had initially collaborated to fund, build, and launch the C1 satellite in 2003, with Optus making use of the Ku-band and Defence making use of its Ka-band, UHF, and X-band frequencies for coverage across APAC.

Although Optus had briefly considered selling off its satellite division in 2013, it then extended the satellite's services to 2018 by signing a AU$19.5 million contract renewal with Defence in 2014.

The first of NBN's two new AU$620 million Ka-band satellites, designed and built in conjunction with Optus, Arianespace, SSL, ViaSat, and Ericsson, was launched from French Guiana in October.

Users on the long-term satellite solution will attain download speeds of 25Mbps and upload speeds of 5Mbps on the top-tier plan.

On Tuesday, NBN revealed that despite still being in the business-readiness testing phase of the satellite system, NBN expects to launch commercial services between late April and early May.

Prior to commercial launch of the product, the next phase involves a customer field trial with 200 end-user participants and three RSPs: Harbour ISP, SkyMesh, and Activ8me.

The three RSPs chose which customers would take place in field trial, which is set to take place "in a few weeks", with the test restricted to those living in surrounding suburbs of Melbourne.

"The customer field trial will be geographically constrained to a couple of beams that we have commissioned and set up for the purpose in and around the Melbourne fringe area," NBN program director for Satellite Matt Dawson told ZDNet.

While 400,000 premises will be eligible to order a satellite service, NBN foresees only 200,000 to 250,000 will actually take up the system.

NBN expects to launch its second satellite midway through 2016.

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