FARNBOROUGH, England — ViaSat Inc. has bested Hughes Network Systems and other competitors to win a $286 million contract with Australia’s NBN Co. for that nation’s satellite broadband ground infrastructure, NBN and ViaSat announced July 12.
The contract, valued at 280 million Australian dollars, is the second of three work packages NBN is preparing for the network, which will provide high-speed, two-way Internet access to up to 200,000 Australian homes not connected to the terrestrial grid.
In February, Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., was awarded a contract from NBN to build two Ka-band broadband satellites, to be launched starting in 2015. That contract was valued at 620 million Australian dollars.
The ViaSat contract, which was hotly contested for more than two years, calls for the construction of 13.5-meter-diameter satellite dishes to be placed at 10 NBN gateways throughout the country. Two of these dishes will be installed at each of the 10 sites.
Carlsbad, Calif.-based ViaSat also will provide consumer premises equipment — rooftop antennas and set-top boxes to connect with subscriber computers — for NBN under the contract.
NBN referred to the ViaSat deal as “an initial investment” and did not specify the number of consumer terminals included. NBN spokeswoman Edwina Hinchliffe said July 12 that NBN would not be disclosing the number of consumer terminals included in the initial order.
ViaSat is expected to provide gear similar to what it is deploying for its Exede service in the United States, an upgraded package for consumers that has been enabled by the ViaSat-1 satellite, in service since January.
NBN said it expects to select a launch service provider for the two satellites at a later date. This would be the final large piece of the program to be contracted, not including an expected launch insurance policy.
NBN, which is an Australian government agency created to provide broadband access to all Australian citizens — by fiber links, terrestrial wireless and satellite service — has said its Long-Term Satellite Service is budgeted at 2 billion Australian dollars.
The company also is financing an interim service using capacity provided by Thaicom of Thailand and Australia’s Optus. That service has already begun and currently has around 10,000 subscribers, NBN said.
The size of the investment and the expected subscriber market makes Australia’s national broadband project among the world’s most ambitious — and expensive. An investment of 2 billion Australian dollars serving 200,000 homes and small businesses means the program is costing 10,000 Australian dollars per subscriber.
NBN said about 300 Australian jobs would be created in installing the ViaSat ground gear, and in managing the network.