NBN Co, the public-private company tasked with overseeing the management and construction of Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN), has reportedly sought assurances from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) that it will be able to launch long-term satellites in 2015. According to iTnews, the development comes after concerns were raised by the opposition Coalition that the decision to purchase satellites despite not having acquired orbital slots for the craft could risk the satellite portion of the NBN project. Having received feedback from the ITU, the report cites an unnamed NBN spokesman as saying: ‘It is possible for a company to purchase a satellite in advance of it being put into use and the orbital slots being finalised … So long as there are no regional objections and the ITU registration process is underway an operator can proceed with its launch plans.’
While it is understood that no objections to NBN Co’s slot bid had yet been raised, the company’s CEO Mike Quigley had recently suggested that some opposition could be forthcoming from rival satellite operators; companies which had sought to sell NBN Co their own existing orbital slots are seen as the most likely to object to the bid.
NBN Co is expecting to serve around 200,000 premises with satellite broadband services in those areas where fibre-based and mobile broadband infrastructure will not be deployed. Despite the Coalition’s questioning of the plans, with around AUD2 billion (USD2 billion) likely to have been made in contractual commitments for the satellite part of the NBN project prior to the 2013 general election, it is unlikely to scrap the plans if it comes to power. Commenting on the matter, shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull said: ‘It will be interesting to see how that debate progresses within the satellite industry … We’ve made some criticisms about the way they’ve gone about buying and building their own satellites… it’s our job to hold the NBN Co to account and that’s what I’m seeking diligently to do.’