Australia Doles Out $320M in Satellite Broadband Awards
PARIS — Satellite operators Optus of Australia and Thaicom of Thailand, and satellite user-terminal builder Gilat of Israel, have won contracts totaling 300 million Australian dollars ($320.6 million) to provide satellite broadband services to consumers and small businesses as part of Australia’s massive investment in broadband connectivity, Australia’s NBN Co. announced May 6.
The contracts, each for five years, will jump-start Australia’s National Broadband Network, which features cable, terrestrial wireless and, starting in 2015, two Ka-band broadband satellites that together will extend broadband to nearly every Australian citizen.
NBN Co., which is overseeing the purchase and installation of the hybrid network, said Australia’s domestic satellite operator, Optus, will provide managed satellite services and some of its own satellite capacity using ground equipment provided by Gilat Satellite Networks. The Optus-Gilat contract is valued at about 200 million Australian dollars.
Thaicom will provide capacity on its IPStar/Thaicom 4 Ku-band broadband satellite, for which Australia has been one of the largest markets since it was launched in 2005, in a contract with NBN Co. valued at slightly more than 100 million Australian dollars.
The contracts will provide customers located outside the reach of Australia’s terrestrial grid with download speeds of up to 6 megabits per second, and upload speeds of up to 1 megabit per second.
This interim capacity, whose service could be extended beyond five years, is intended to provide consumers in remote locations with broadband access while NBN Co. selects from among multiple teams vying to provide the country’s permanent satellite-based broadband network.
In its May 6 announcement, NBN Co. said it expects that eligible customers — meaning those located in areas deemed to be in greatest need of satellite links — will receive a service of up to 12 megabits per second on the downlink once the two dedicated broadband satellites are launched in 2015.
Petah Tikva, Israel-based Gilat said May 6 that it will provide Optus with an initial network of 11 SkyEdge 2 hub stations, and 20,000 SkyEdge 2 terminals, to be deployed within three years, with a possible expansion to 48,000 user terminals. Gilat has created an Australian subsidiary, Gilat Satellite Networks Australian Pty Ltd., to manage the contract, which Gilat said is valued at up to 112.3 million Australian dollars if all 48,000 terminals are ordered.
Gilat said its terminals will connect to the Ku-band capacity on the Optus and Thaicom satellites.
Thaicom’s Australian subsidiary, IPStar Australia Pty Ltd., already serves some 80,000 customers in rural Australia, with most of these subscribers taking advantage of equipment subsidies under the Australian Broadband Guarantee, an existing government broadband-stimulus program.
NBN Co., which is owned by the Australian government, is managing the National Broadband Network’s deployment over 10 years. The project’s construction cost, including the two satellites as well as fiber installation and deployment of terrestrial-wireless gear, is estimated at 36 billion Australian dollars.