The NBN Co today kicked off its hunt for satellite operators which will in the future service a part or all of the 10 per cent of the rural Australian households not delivered a fibre connection to the home.
Following recent comments by NBN Co chief Mike Quigley that the company would launch "a couple" of KA-band satellites by the end of 2010, it has called for capability statements from operators. KA band is a short frequency between 26.5GHz to 40GHz that is seen as suitable for broadband.
While urban households will receive 100Mbps fibre connections, rural Australians have been promised some form of wireless connection with speeds of no less than 12Mbps.
Quigley said in a statement today that the NBN Co "is looking for companies with proven capabilities to act as key suppliers" which can undertake different components of such an operation.
"This is an important milestone in the progress of the project, particularly for the provision of high-speed broadband services to rural and regional Australia," he said.
At the Federal Government's Our Broadband Future conference in December, Quigley said that by 2010 the NBN Co hoped to have launched "a couple" of KA-band satellites, highlighting it as the most economical way of doing the task.
Following an evaluation of capability statements, which are due by 15 February, it will invite a shortlist of between five to 10 suppliers to partake in a request for proposal process.
Optus has already indicated that it was keen to participate if satellites were selected as the technology for rural Australia. It along with Intelsat/PanAmSat are the dominant players locally and both provide broadcasting services to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. However, neither have in operation a KA-band satellite, the likes of which are made by US manufacturer, ViaSat.
Australian company KaComm, which has yet to launch a satellite, however, claims that it has acquired the rights to KA-spectrum from the Australian Communications and Media Authority and plans to become a wholesale regional broadband provider, according to its company profile.
The satellite request for capability from satellite operators will follow a similar process to that already commenced for fibre suppliers, which the NBN Co expects to announce a shortlist for by the end of March.