More satellites needed to get NBN to rural areas: Coutts

Utilisation of Asia Pacific satellites may be needed

Coutts Communications has come out strongly in favour of more satellites over Australia to aid the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout to remote areas.

Speaking at an Inquiry into the role of the NBN, Professor Reg Coutts, said satellite providers would be essential to get the NBN to the estimated seven per cent of the population in remote communities who could not access the proposed fibre-to-the-home.

"The NBN Co is well aware of the background to satellites in Australia today and they want to see the satellite service as a goal. But the fact is that compared to countries like America, there is much less population and there hasn’t been the same number of satellites with capacity launched above Australia," he said.

Coutts suggested that satellites in the region could be utilised. He used the example of Asia Pacific Internet provider IPSTAR and its satellite launched out of Thailand.

"If you look at IPSTAR, Australia has been a beneficiary because 40 per cent of the capacity of that satellite has been used in Australia so the profits of that are coming here," he said.

His comments follow concerns expressed at last week's Commsday summit by satellite providers that NBN Co could bypass providers and offer its own satellite services to customers.

NewSat chief Adrian Ballintine sought to clarify the situation specifically for the satellite industry.

“Can you categorically tell us today that you’re not going to encroach on non-disadvantaged people and you’re not going to move to the customer base of the corporates and you’re not going to use taxpayer money to subsidise the corporates?” he asked.

In particular, Ballintine voiced suspicions NBN Co was planning to, and had already contacted, some of NewSat’s clients, which include Fortune 100 companies in the mining, construction and oil verticals.

NewSat has moved in the past to win contracts under the satellite portion of the NBN, but Ballintine said the wholesaler was yet to contact his company.

NBN Co clarified in a statement that it would offer its satellite services in the same way as the fibre and fixed wireless arms of the $36 billion network.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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