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Optus Satellite signs rural NZ broadband deal

Optus will bring high-speed connectivity via satellite services to those living on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island under a new deal.

Australian telecommunications carrier Optus has announced signing a deal with rural broadband company Farmside to provide those living in rural and remote sections of the east cost of New Zealand's South Island with internet connectivity via its satellite division.

Under the deal, Farmside, a subsidiary of TeamTalk, will provide its business, residential, and farming customers with Optus satellite internet services.

"Optus Satellite has a long history in New Zealand of providing primarily pay TV services, and we are continuing to expand our range of services and affiliations like Farmside, in New Zealand," said Paul Sheridan, vice president of Optus Satellite.

"New Zealand's topography and population location diversity present many challenges in the provision of telecommunications services. We are pleased to be able to join with Farmside to improve the delivery of internet services to their customers via our satellite network."

According to Farmside general manager Stuart Cooper, the satellite broadband will provide these rural customers with higher data caps and faster speeds than they have historically been able to attain.

To enable connectivity, Farmside will use Gateway Teleport to allow the earth station to access Optus D2 satellites' New Zealand payload.

Earlier this year, Optus Satellite similarly signed a deal to provide Mobile Health NZ with access to its satellite services so that the company can run video-conferencing health education sessions throughout rural areas of the country.

The deal, signed between Optus affiliate internet service provider Wireless Nation and Mobile Health NZ, sees Optus provide satellite connectivity on an on-demand basis for 24 months beginning February 2016.

On its deal to provide connectivity through Wireless Nation to Mobile Health NZ -- which connects to the satellite by pointing a dish on the roof of its satellite van in the required direction at the press of a button -- Optus said it welcomed the opportunity to extend its satellite services to another company in the region.

"Optus is pleased to be able to facilitate Wireless Nation's delivery of services to its rural-based customers," Sheridan said in February.

"We know the importance that businesses and consumers place on access to internet and telecommunications services, particularly when geography can inhibit access to those services."

Optus' satellite division owns the largest number of satellites covering Australia and New Zealand, with six satellites in orbit providing coverage to the region.

The NZ government's NZ$300 million Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), funded by an industry levy, is also bringing high-speed broadband to those living in rural and remote areas outside the footprint of the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) fibre network, with Vodafone NZ earlier this month announcing that the final cell site for the RBI had been switched on.

"Being connected regionally, nationally, and internationally ensures rural businesses remain competitive and keep innovating," Vodafone NZ CEO Russell Stanners said.

"Vodafone remains committed to extended coverage to rural New Zealand, and we will continue to invest in our network so all our customers gain access to the same benefits and opportunities as those living in urban areas."

Vodafone NZ built 154 new rural cell sites across the country in partnership with Chorus and the New Zealand government, with 20 percent of the population to be connected to wireless mobile broadband under the initiative.

The RBI will provide download speeds of 50Mbps, while the UFB has minimum speeds of 100Mbps upload/50Mbps download for the remaining 80 percent of the population.