Australian Company Asks Government To Subsidize Launch

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  Space News Business

Australian Company Asks Government To Subsidize Launch

By PETER B. de SELDING
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 31 December 2007
09:56 am ET





PARIS —


An Australian teleport operator is proposing that a




government program created to subsidize broadband access by rural Australian consumers also be used to help finance the launch of a Ka-band satellite for government, corporate, consumer and perhaps military use.

NewSat
Ltd. of Melbourne, in a proposal delivered to Australian telecommunications authorities Dec. 10, says its NewSat-1 project could be financed for 400 million Australian dollars ($351




million).

The company wants to finance half the project costs through the generous broadband subsidization program, called the Australian Broadband Guarantee, which




has been operating in Australia for several years. The guarantee currently




offsets the cost of user terminals and installation charges.

Australian broadband subsidies are one of the principal reasons




Shin Satellite of Thailand counts Australia as perhaps its most dynamic market for IPStar, Shin’s large broadband satellite.



More recently, Australia’s Optus Satellite, the country’s principal satellite operator, announced that it had ordered several thousand SkyEdge terminals from terminal manufacturer Gilat Satellite Networks of PetahTikva, Israel, as part of a network that Gilat said eventually would feature more than 20,000 two-way terminals for corporate, government and consumer customers.



NewSat plans to use ViaSat Inc.’s Surfbeam terminal technology and a spot-beam Ka-band satellite to cover the whole of Australia, a business model that is being tested in the United States by WildBlue Inc. of Denver. The same technology is being used to deploy consumer-broadband networks by Telesat Canada.

In a Dec. 13 interview, New Sat Chief Executive Adrian M. Ballintine said NewSat’s proposal would be the first Australian-owned broadband system. Optus is owned by SingTel Optus of Singapore, while IPStar is headquartered in Thailand.

“We have received positive signals from the government on this and I think we’ll have an answer by March, if not earlier,” Ballintine said. “If the government intends to dish out money [for broadband deployment], then it ought to stay with Australian companies and provide jobs in Australia.”

NewSat
operates two satellite telemetry and tracking stations, located in Perth and Adelaide, which it purchased from satellite-operator SES New Skies in late 2005. The company also provides two-way satellite services through conventional Ku-band satellites for oil and gas companies and other corporate customers.



NewSat, whose stock trades on the Australian Securities Exchange, reported a net loss of 7.2 million Australian dollars on revenues of 22.9 million Australian dollars for the fiscal year ending June 30. Ballintine said the company is debt-free and would have little trouble assembling 200 million Australian dollars to match the government’s investment. It “is a no-brainer,” he said. “We’ve got a number of financing options.”



NewSat also has yet to secure an orbital slot over Australia for NewSat-1. Ballintine said sharing an orbital slot with an existing satellite operator, or purchasing a slot reserved with international regulators, but not currently being used, likewise will not be difficult.

Ballintine
said NewSat has opened discussions with four prospective strategic investors –




two satellite system operators and two other unnamed companies –




who have expressed an interest in financing 25 percent of the venture. He said Australia’s main telecommunications providers have been unable to assure universal broadband access in the country.