Optus to operate NBN Co satellites

Optus to operate NBN Co satellites

Summary: Australia's second-largest telecommunications company has been picked to operate NBN Co's long term satellite for up to 15 years.

TOPICS: NBN, Australia

Optus, Australia's second-largest telecommunications company and a significant satellite operator, has been tapped by NBN Co to control NBN Co's two long-term satellites for up to 15 years.

(Image: Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

The AU$620 million Ka-band satellites are due to be launched next year on the back of two 777-tonne rockets by French company Arianespace. The satellites will provide broadband services to approximately 200,000 premises across the Australian mainland, as well as Norfolk Island, Christmas Island, Macquarie Island, and the Cocos Islands.

Services on offer will be up to 25Mbps download, 5Mbps upload for premises that sit outside of NBN Co's fibre and fixed-wireless footprint.

Optus and NBN Co have announced today that they have signed an initial five-year agreement to operate the satellites once they have been launched. The contract has the potential to be extended out to 2030 — 15 years after the launch.

Optus will check the telemetry, and track and control the NBN Co satellites from its satellite ground station in Northern Sydney.

Optus is already supplying interim satellite services for NBN Co on its existing satellites, and has five satellites in orbit today, with another planned for launch later this year.

The contract was won after a competitive tender process, NBN Co has said, and comes just months after Optus had considered selling its satellite business, but decided to continue growing the business. At the time, Optus would not rule out a future IPO of the satellite division.

"As a leader in the provision of satellite services, Optus looks forward to working with NBN Co to fly these satellites and assist it in meeting the significant demand for high-speed broadband services in regional and remote Australia," Optus' vice president for satellite Paul Sheridan said in a statement.

The deal with Optus does not address the ongoing issue of customers looking to access the interim satellite service before the launch of the new satellites next year. At the end of last year, NBN Co hit its capacity on the interim satellite services, with 48,000 having ordered a service on the interim satellites. The company has ceased taking orders on the satellite service while the government is mulling its options.

As of last week, NBN Co had 44,447 premises on the service. The maximum monthly download is 9GB per month, while on the full satellite service, NBN Co users will be able to download around 60GB per month.

NBN Co had not responded to questions on the value of the deal, but is expected to invest around AU$2 billion in the long-term satellite service. Originally, the plan to launch the satellites instead of utilising existing capacity was deemed to be the "Rolls Royce" approach by then-Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, but, now in government, Turnbull has committed to keep the satellite launch running, and visited Loral at the construction site for the satellites during his recent visit to the United States.

Topics: NBN, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • A "RollsRoyce Service" is to actually get service!

    The current satellites already full up and slower than smoke signals, Mr Fraudband telling us that just to get service at all is now a luxury "Rolls-Royce service".
    How anybody at all had any belief in Mr Fraudband after the Godwin Grech fiasco defies belief, but a whole swag of "Tech heads" swallowed the story that he was going to fix the problems with the NBN. His only mission was to can it as quickly as he could, just another compulsive liar of a politician.
    Kevin Cobley
  • A True Universal Service

    We shouldn't forget that the new satellite services being launched in 2015 will be remarkable in a number of ways:
    * This will be a true Universal Service, providing broadband to the entire geography of Australia and its island territories. As both my brothers-in-law are remote farmers, I know what this will mean to rural dwellers. It also covers all towns and cities, providing a safety-net if a site can't be covered by other means.
    * The capacity of these two new satellites is awesome - almost four times all the broadband capacity that exists in Australia prior to the NBN. They will be among the largest satellites ever launched.
    * The spot-beam technology is adjusted to target forecast capacity by area; the ten ground stations will increase the re-use of frequencies and therefore capacity; the clever use of software to reduce response times, partly masking the 36,000km 120msec delays.

    It is good to see Optus, which includes the old Aussat division, being utilised for control. Maybe we can think about regaining the prominent position Australia used to have in the early 1980s in satellite communications.

    On a political point, it is interesting to see that the rural aspects of the NBN have not been affected at all by the change in government - I'm sure the Nationals insisted on this.
  • Not affected?

    Don't kid yourself or us!
    Having demolished the original NBN financial model our "Adults" have now committed rural & urban communities to Rolls-Royce pricing for what amounts to an expensive bare minimum service.
    Once private enterprise has benefited from their free Government funded HFC network upgrades, then Cherry Picked & divided all the profitable areas among themselves then unlike on fibre, we're left with the huge ongoing costs of powering, servicing & maintaining all those street cabinets on every corner required to keep our failing copper on expensive life support.

    Seems the majority fell for the Lib's glib "Faster & Cheaper" sales spiel without reading or understanding their contract's fine print so are now committed to continue paying through the nose for a vastly dearer, inferior product to fibre.
  • MTM, all the costs, none of the revenue.

    All that cash injection to procure access to copper assets (pair and HFC) will, together with the LNP policy of wholesale infrastructure competition, will allow Optus and Telstra to cherry pick the profitable areas, overbuild the pathetic FTTN with their privately owned FTTP networks, leaving the tax payer to repay the money borrowed and expensive copper upkeep with negligible cash flow back into NBNco.