Turnbull decries 'Rolls-Royce' satellites

Summary:The opposition has said that the Federal Government opted for an unnecessary "Rolls-Royce" communications system by paying $620 million for two new satellites to provide high-speed broadband to remote parts of Australia.

The opposition has said that the Federal Government opted for an unnecessary "Rolls-Royce" communications system by paying $620 million for two new satellites to provide high-speed broadband to remote parts of Australia.

NBN Co, the government-owned enterprise rolling out the National Broadband Network (NBN), has signed a deal with US firm Loral Space and Communications to make the satellites.

About 200,000 homes and businesses in the nation's most remote regions will have access to internet speeds similar to those available in urban centres when the satellites are launched in 2015.

"Don't buy yourself a Camry, a Falcon — buy yourself a Rolls-Royce, a Bentley," Opposition Communications spokesperson Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"Nothing but the best will do, nothing but the most expensive will do."

Turnbull said the industry had told him there was enough capacity on existing and scheduled-to-be-launched satellites to provide broadband services to rural and remote Australia.

As well, the existing interim satellite service could be upgraded to a permanent one.

"Why does the government have to pay over $1 billion in total in building, launching, flying these satellites of their own?" Turnbull said.

NBN Co declined to comment on opposition policy, but told ZDNet Australia that it has already secured much of the currently available commercial capacity with its Interim Satellite Solution, which will serve up to 48,000 premises. The newly contracted satellites will have to serve 200,000 premises.

The opposition has committed a future coalition government to a cost-benefit analysis on the best possible way to provide fast, affordable broadband to all Australians.

Under the $35.9 billion NBN project, fibre-optic cable delivering high-speed broadband services will be rolled out to 93 per cent of Australia's 13 million homes, schools and businesses by 2021.

Fixed-wireless technology will provide high-speed internet to 4 per cent of premises, and the remaining 3 per cent will be supplied by the two satellites to remote areas.

Turnbull said the opposition was opposed to the NBN plan in its present form.

Instead, it would pursue a mix of technologies, including fibre, hybrid-fibre coaxial cables, wireless and satellites, to achieve its version of a broadband network.

But he acknowledged contracts such as the satellite deal announced on Wednesday could be hard to cancel if the coalition wins the next election, likely in late 2013.

"They are putting contracts in place and we may have to live with it," Turnbull said.

"There is nothing I can do about that."

Josh Taylor contributed to this article.

Topics: Broadband, Government, Government : AU, NBN

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