Coalition to keep NBN wireless and satellite

An Abbott-led Coalition government would keep the fixed-wireless and satellite components of Australia's National Broadband Network project.

While a Coalition federal government under Tony Abbott would change much of the fixed-line component of the National Broadband Network (NBN), Shadow Regional Communications Minister Luke Hartsuyker has confirmed that the rollout of the fixed-wireless long term evolution (LTE) and satellite services would largely continue as is.

The Coalition is this week expected to reveal the full detail of its broadband policy, which Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said will contain few surprises, as he has largely spelled out the policy over the last 12 months. Turnbull has previously said that if the Coalition wins the September 14 federal election, a cost-benefit analysis would be conducted on the NBN, and it is likely that the fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) rollout would be scaled back to a fibre-to-the-node (FttN) network for existing premises.

Speaking at the Australasia Satellite Summit in Sydney on Monday morning, Hartsuyker said the September election will be "the start of fundamental changes to the telecommunications landscape in Australia". While he was highly critical of the cost of the current fibre deployment and the delays associated with it, he said that the wireless and satellite parts of the network are running well.

The government aims to have the fixed-wireless and satellite components of the network finished by 2015, when the two satellites are launched. These components will serve the last 7 percent of the Australian population not serviced by fibre. Hartsuyker today said that the Coalition would not "materially change" this part of the project.

He said that the fixed-wireless part of the network is having the usual planning and approval issues with building new towers, but is working well otherwise. He said the Coalition would not have entered into the current satellite contracts, but now that construction is underway, it is too late to change it.

"The opportunity to change materially the satellite component has passed," he said. "We are not in the business of changing contracts."

He said the Coalition would not have commenced construction without first obtaining orbital slots , and this might lead to further delays.

"I've been told the process is quite problematic and delays might occur."

Latest reports suggest that NBN Co is well advanced in its negotiations to secure the orbital slots with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). However, a number of executives of satellite organisations speaking at the forum on Monday have been critical of NBN Co for proceeding with satellite construction before securing the orbital slots.

Hartsuyker said that in the event of a delayed satellite launch, NBN Co should lift the cap on the number of customers allowed on the interim satellite service well above the current limit of 48,000.