New Zealand Defense Chief: Investment in WGS Boosts Broadband Access, Saves Money

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PARIS — New Zealand’s minister of defense on Jan. 18 defended his country’s investment in the U.S. Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) military broadband communications satellite system, saying it will be far less costly than continued spending on commercial satellite bandwidth.

In a statement issued the day after Canada announced its stake in WGS, a U.S. Air Force constellation of an expected 10 satellites, New Zealand Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said New Zealand’s stake in the constellation “will increase our access to satellite broadband more than twenty-fold, with guaranteed access and at a fixed price, ensuring better value for money. This gives a significant boost to our forces’ capacity both at home and abroad.”

New Zealand’s larger neighbor, Australia, in 2007 agreed to invest in a full WGS satellite, called WGS-6, valued at about $234 million.

The New Zealand investment is being made alongside Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, which together are financing most of the construction of a WGS-9 spacecraft. The U.S. Air Force on Jan. 13 exercised an option with Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of El Segundo, Calif., to build WGS-9, in a contract valued at $376.5 million.

The five nations all will have immediate access to the WGS network, with use proportional to their individual contributions.

Coleman said New Zealand’s defense forces will invest $83.2 million over 20 years in the network. He said current spending on satellite communications is 4.3 million New Zealand dollars ($3.4 million) per year, and growing at 10 percent annually.

“Deployed New Zealand forces around the world use satellites to communicate with New Zealand,” Coleman said. “The [New Zealand Defence Force] currently purchases bandwidth on commercial satellites at spot prices, which can involve a premium of up to 100 percent depending on demand, and which can also limit availability of bandwidth.”