Quigley, Turnbull clash over NBN satellites

Quigley, Turnbull clash over NBN satellites

Summary: NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley and Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday clashed over risks associated with NBN Co's satellite launch.

SHARE:
TOPICS: NBN, Broadband
48

NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley and Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday clashed over risks associated with NBN Co's satellite launch.

Following the awarding of the $620 million tender to US communications giant Loral earlier this year, NBN Co has been getting everything in place for when the service is launched in 2015 to provide broadband services to 3 of the 7 per cent of Australia not covered by the National Broadband Network (NBN) fibre roll-out. Speaking at a joint parliamentary inquiry on the NBN in Sydney yesterday, Quigley said that NBN Co has secured uplink and downlink frequencies for the service, and is going through a process with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to get approval for four orbital slots from 135 degrees east, at 5 degree increments each that will cover Australia.

Although NBN Co hasn't received formal approval from the ITU for these slots, because the process takes a number of years, Quigley said that NBN Co is still going about preparing the satellite development for use in these slots. Quigley admitted that the slot selection would affect the design of the satellites, and Turnbull questioned whether this represents a great risk to NBN Co if it misses out on the slots that it is seeking.

"It is not uncommon that people launch satellites without that process being completed," Quigley said. "What you go through is a process of coordination. We have had no objections at this point, and we frankly don't expect to have any.

"In all projects of this sort ... you never have these things completely tied down. Our assessment is that this is secure. We expect the formality will be completed well before we launch our satellites."

Quigley said that if NBN Co waits the years that it takes for the ITU to approve this process, it would delay delivering satellite services to regional Australia. He said that the risk that the launch vehicle designed to take up the satellites would fail is in "order of magnitudes" higher than the risk of missing out on the slots, and said that NBN Co would take out insurance to cover the launch.

Following Quigley's evidence, Turnbull tweeted, "Quigley & Gvt happy to take risk of building and launching $660 million [sic] satellites without having the orbital slot allocated."

Turnbull's tweet.
(Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

Quigley shot back during the hearing.

"I just noticed we had a tweet from Mr Turnbull ... I thought just five minutes ago I made it absolutely and abundantly clear that we did not say we would be launching without having the slots," he said, adding that the issue "was not a risk that keeps me awake at night".

But Turnbull wasn't convinced, writing a blog post yesterday afternoon stating that a change in orbital slot would lead to more costs for NBN Co.

"If the orbital slot is an important assumption in the design of the satellite, and if the slot assumed in the design is not the one ultimately granted, there would presumably be additional costs to take into account the new slot and potential delays, depending on how long the grant of the new slot actually took," he said. "Is it really a risk of such a miniscule nature that Mr Quigley is right not to lose a moment's sleep about it? Or is it important when you invest $660 million of the taxpayers' money you take a rigorous belt-and-braces approach to all of the legal requirements?"

Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy secretary Peter Harris told the committee that there is a high degree of assurance that NBN Co will be successful in getting the orbital slots, and, should another company object to it, there would be a negotiation process, but the design and construction of the satellites would continue as planned. He said that orbital slots are not like property rights, but it is more like a coordination process between other satellite companies.

Quigley said that given the demand for NBN Co's interim satellite service, the company had forecasted an increased demand for satellite services when the permanent service is available in 2015. The company has revised its take-up expectations of 106,000 premises to 200,000 premises. Despite this, Quigley said that the satellite service would still not make a profit for NBN Co.

Greenfields numbers

Last week, Turnbull criticised NBN Co for falling behind in the roll-out of services to new housing estates, known as greenfields. In the six months to 31 December 2011, NBN Co had only 110 active services, with 958 premises passed. Quigley provided a revised figure of 280 active services, with 1100 premises passed, and said that the number could be confusing, since people may not even be living in houses where the NBN has been connected.

"We know how many lots have been passed, but what we don't know is how many of those lots have somebody living in them," he said.

As the Coalition turned up its attack on the NBN, Essential polling released yesterday shows that 57 per cent of Australians favour the roll-out of the NBN, including 42 per cent of coalition voters, versus 40 per cent who oppose the roll-out.

Topics: NBN, Broadband

About

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.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

48 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Oh dear!! here we go again. more negative vibes from the Coalition of evil. I supose Mr Turnbull has to follow the Abbott doctrine of saying "No" to everything including "Mothers apple pie" but its clear he doesnt believe what he's saying. The Coalition of evil should read Aviation and space technology Magazine occaionally to get a clue as to how these things are arranged.
    If the Coalition get their way the only communication system will be wireless . Men standing in towers waving signal flags. Even telegraph wires are way to modern and complex for them. They are after all, simple folks.
    Ron123-c6b75
    • Ease up Ron, this is all too high tech for those two. They have yet to evolve to tin cans & string communication systems & are even struggling to master using drums & smoke signals!
      grump3
  • Keep in mind Turnbull is one of the dummies that argues for more wireless and satellite. Just imagine the trouble they will face if they try to roll out their substandard patchwork plan... better not risk it guys.
    Hubert Cumberdale
  • Ahh..... just typical FUD from pro-NBN FUDsters who are too afraid to look at the facts.

    Lets see:
    1. $660 million for satellites that they cannot even get off the ground because they were to stupid to get the slots.

    2. $God knows how many milllion on the AAPT spectrum buy - clearly so much money they are too scared to tell us.

    3. God knows how many million more to get the slots - they want four of these at $50 - $100 million each.

    Well, there goes a quick BILLION dollars..... on stupidity and SUB STANDARD technology to boot.
    Frergers
    • "Lets see:"

      Ideed. Let's see...


      "1. $660 million for satellites that they cannot even get off the ground because they were to stupid to get the slots."

      Apart from you failing to read and/or understand the article what do you propose as a solution? More fibre?




      "Well, there goes a quick BILLION dollars..... on stupidity and SUB STANDARD technology to boot."

      yep it's so much money let's just round it up to the nearest billion. No, really I think it's obvious what your problem is as the roll out will never satisfy you, fibre is "expensive", "a waste" and "we dont need it" but satellites are much slower, and NBNco are according to you are too "stupid" to get slots. Your solution (we can assume) is do nothing, which coincidentally is the coalitions plan and what got us into this mess to begin with. Well done.
      Hubert Cumberdale
      • If you look at the figures Mr Humbert, you will find that the projected cost is actually $2 billion.

        Like all typical pro_NBN FUDsters, you state things I have never said. I have never said that fibre is expensive or a waste.... not ever. You just fabricate these things so other readers will assume I have said them elsewhere. FUD, FUD, FUD, FUD, FUD.

        What I HAVE said in regard to satellite, other than pointing out pertinent facts, is that the planned satellite services are SUB STANDARD. But of course, to you such things are "vapid and pathetic". Yes, of course to you they are, because you are just a self centered game boy drooling over the prospect of FTTH and doesn't give a RA about other Australians.
        Frergers
        • "projected cost is actually $2 billion."

          Great. It's so much money let's just round it up to the nearest 2 billion.





          "I have never said that fibre is expensive or a waste"

          I have never said that you said that fibre is expensive or a waste.





          "But of course, to you such things are "vapid and pathetic""

          True. Your arguments are vapid and pathetic.




          "because you are just a self centered game boy drooling over the prospect of FTTH and doesn't give a RA about other Australians."

          False. I don’t play video games and I actually do care about other Australians which is why I am actually in favor of the NBN.



          Now since you like to make assumptions about people you wont mind if I make a few about you. You are a self centered alcoholic and have a gambling problem, you want fibre like everyone anyone else but because your area is satellite only area you believe the NBN should not go ahead. You are jealous of those on fast fibre plans and you are angry because a political party you didn’t vote for dares to improve communications infrastructure and people approve of it... that is all.
          Hubert Cumberdale
          • Ha ha ha Hubert.... you are wrong on all counts.

            Since you are so caring for other Australians, why, instead of agreeing that the satellite plan is pathetically SUB STANDARD, do you insist on trolling and spinning BS to try and refute that FACT?

            YOu are so addicted to trolling you don't actually know how to string a sensible, clear and reasonablñe argument together. All you know is trash.
            Frergers
          • "Ha ha ha Hubert.... you are wrong on all counts."

            If I was wrong I'd know about it before you.




            "Since you are so caring for other Australians, why, instead of agreeing that the satellite plan is pathetically SUB STANDARD, do you insist on trolling and spinning BS to try and refute that FACT?"

            I've already expressed my views on the whole fibre/wireless/satellite footprints. You are unable to understand or comprehend what I've said but I'm not about to repeat myself. You can just find the comment and spend a few hours reading it until you do. Go on, off you go.




            "YOu are so addicted to trolling you don't actually know how to string a sensible, clear and reasonablñe argument together. All you know is trash."

            This would make more sense if you were describing your own posts.
            Hubert Cumberdale
    • Fergers do you have ANY idea how a network is run?

      It wouldnt seem that way.

      When you buy a satellite, they dont just GET space given to you. This isnt a mobile phone plan, it doesnt come with airtime.
      Master_T[RG]
      • The more pressing question is "Frergers, do you have any idea about anything"? And the obvious answer is, err no...
        Beta-9f71a
        • I've come to the conclusion fegergs is actually alian.
          Hubert Cumberdale
          • Looking at the childish pedantics, continued contradictions (taxpayers/CBA are paying for NBN - bonds are paying for the NBN, that's common knowledge - taxpayers/CBA are paying... LOL) refusal to admit to being wrong (even when proven so, time and time again) and of course the obvious idiocy, yes, I believe you may be correct Hubert!
            Beta-9f71a
          • Taxpayer are not paying? Right! Please bend over while I shove this up your BS:

            http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/in-depth/reserve-fund-pays-telstras-nbn-deal/story-e6frgaif-1226292608219

            That is only the beginning......
            Frergers
          • AND AGAIN... LOL... The Australian.

            As I have said all along, read my lips A G A I N, it's not coming from our "income taxes". It is coming from bonds, securities, BAF, Contiingency funds, etc... FFS. Can you comprehand anything that doesn't have the Liberal Party log plastered all over it?

            For example Beta March 31 - "Yes indeed good point, it's (NBN) only $27B/$2.7B p.a over 10 years not $36B/$3.6B pa over 10 years. Nicely spotted.

            And coming from the sale of bonds, securities, BAF, contingency fund, NOT general taxation... although granted that is always an option...."

            http://www.zdnet.com.au/vic-govt-pans-nbn-three-year-roll-out-339334940.htm

            I love the false BS about taxes. Even if the $300m came from our "income taxes" (which it didn't), that's $300m out of $36B and you scream taxpayer funded.

            But if/when the opposition pay $B's in subsidies to private companies to build and own OUR network, that's not taxpayer funded or wastage?

            And...

            Here's more from your "reliable source"...

            http://delimiter.com.au/2012/03/27/oops/#commenting

            And more from the same stable of "relaible reporting"...

            http://www.abc.net.au/technology/articles/2011/12/23/3397389.htm

            LOL... go on now call me dear boy and put the icing on the cake!
            Beta-9f71a
          • Beta, I have looked at various web sites to further understand the source of government equity which is to be supplied to NBN Co in the first 5 years. Notwithstanding the Telstra payoff, my understanding is the equity is to be supplied from the government. It is proving to be difficult to establish the source of that equity funding. Given it (the equity funding) cannot be found in the budget, it is reasonable to assume the equity is funded from loans.
            Knowledge Expert
          • Yes I agree it perhaps needs to be more transparent and clear.

            But in it's most basic form (ye ther is more to it, but...) it's either "off budget 9so to speak)" or coming from "within the budget/our income taxes".

            The opposition and their faithful yes men, are criticising about, both?
            Beta-9f71a
          • Now Beta, you please tell us who exactly is wrong... go on.......
            Frergers
          • YOU ARE... tell us AGAIN that the CBA (and Harrison Young) and taxpayers are funding the NBN again...LOL.
            Beta-9f71a
      • Ahhh MisterT, so you are the expert? Why don't we hear from a REAL expert huh?

        NewSat chief executive Adrian Ballantyne said NBN Co’s approach was highly risky. “The most difficult part of the space project is having the orbital slot because there are only about 180 in the world and we spent five years negotiating for ours,” he said. “Recent auctions of orbital slots have gone for $50-$100 million because the process is like pulling hen’s teeth. The standard process is you get the slot, find the customers and then find the funding to launch.”

        You got that? FIRST you get your slots... then you have a reason to build satellites. Without the slots, you are just burning money.

        So what was Quigley's response? Much par for the course when the senate committee asks him anything: "I’m not answering ‘have you stopped beating your wife’ questions".

        Regardless of all the pro-NBN FUD around here, which assumes pertinent questions may not be asked, the Senate Joint Committe is made up of Senate members from all parties. Please watch the video and look at the disdain on Rob Oakshott's face as he listens to Quigley's crap.
        Frergers