NBN Co sign $620m deal for two satellites to connect rural Australians to network

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NBN Illustration about the two satellites (Image: NBN Co/via @JuliaGillard)

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy have announced that NBN Co has reached an agreement to buy two satellites to allow fast broadband service to rural and remote parts of the service.

The deal, worth $620 million, was awarded to Loral. They will be designed and developed in California, and will be launched in 2015 – with the first to be launched in Q1, and the second launched in Q2. They will be Ka-band and will push out 100Gbps speed.

Conroy has said in a press conference that the new satellite service will improve from the “fairly average” service provided currently, and says that it will connect those who need satellite the same speed those in metro areas receive today. He also adds that those who are in the fibre network will not be getting access to those services.

Conroy also answered questions about why an Australian company was not selected to the deal. “There are only five companies in the world that can build these satellites,” he said, adding three of them are in the US and two in Europe.

NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley, also present, refused to reveal any unsuccessful bidders.

The announcement also means that the NBN will expand to Australia’s outlying territories, including the Norfolk, Cocos and Christmas Islands.

“We are honored to be a part of the Australian government’s initiative to provide universal broadband service to all of its citizens,” John Celli, president of Space Systems/Loral, said in a statement. “Today, access to the internet is crucial for education, safety, and economic development.”

Until then, however, the NBN is using an Interim Satellite Service to provide broadband service to rural and outlying areas in Australia. The speeds are up to 6Mbps, and more than 2500 premises have already been connected to the service.

There haven’t been any names for the new satellites – though, one journalist asked if they would be named “Julia” and “Kevin”. So, if you have any suggestions, I bet Julia will love to hear them.