ViaSat wins AU$280m NBN satellite contract

NBN Co has selected ViaSat to provide ground equipment for the NBN's satellite service, due to be launched in 2015.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard today announced that US satellite company ViaSat has been selected to manufacture and supply telecommunications equipment that will be used to communicate with NBN Co's satellites in a deal worth AU$280 million for the National Broadband Network (NBN).

"This is the on-the-ground equipment, the satellite dishes, the infrastructure which means the satellite service can work. It also means dishes will go on 200,000 residences in the most remote parts of Australia, so they can get the benefit of broadband through the satellite service," Gillard said.

The prime minister said that the deal is expected to create around 300 jobs during construction of the 10 ground stations.

The deal is the second of three tenders expected to be awarded for NBN Co's long-term satellite service, which is due to be launched in 2015 and will cover around 200,000 premises across Australia. In February, US communications giant Space Systems/Loral (SSL) was tapped to design and construct two satellites for the service for AU$620 million. The company stated that a contract for the launch of the satellites will be awarded at a later date.

NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley said that each ground station will have a 13.5-metre dish to communicate with the satellites, which in turn will communicate back down to customer residences.

Gillard also announced that NBN Co will begin expanding its fixed-wireless long-term evolution service in Townsville from covering 25,000 premises to 55,000 premises. She said that NBN Co will begin lodging tower development applications with six councils in Townsville, three in Mackay and two in Rockhampton in the near future. The services are expected to be up and running by late 2013.

Quigley noted that fibre take-up in Townsville has been higher than expected, at 24 per cent. Gillard said that fibre is being rolled out underground in Townsville due to the area's history with natural disasters.

The satellite deal comes as SSL and ViaSat are locked in a court battle in the United States. ViaSat claims that SSL breached a contract, and has allegedly infringed on ViaSat patents in technology contained in satellites that are either launched or currently under construction. SSL claims that ViaSat has infringed on its patents.

In June, Canadian company MDA announced that it would buy SSL in a deal worth US$875 million. According to Space News, the deal will protect MDA from any damages that may have to be paid out as a result of the ViaSat lawsuit. NBN Co said this deal would have no impact on NBN Co's contract with SSL.

Editorial standards