ITU reassures NBN Co on satellite concerns

NBN Co has sought to diminish claims by the Coalition that its satellite launch will be delayed

NBN Co has engaged the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to quell suggestions that the launch of the National Broadband Network (NBN) satellites in 2015 will be delayed due to a lack of orbital slot approval.

The ITU is the United Nations specialised agency for all issues related to ICT.

The ITU informed NBN Co overnight that plans to launch two Ka-band satellites in regional Australia have followed the correct approvals process and confirmed it was not unusual to purchase satellites prior to finalising their positions in orbit over the Australia.

The advice follows claims made by shadow communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, during a parliamentary committee this week, that there is a risk of NBN Co missing out on allocated orbital slots which could delay the planned satellite launch.

NBN Co chief executive, Mike Quigley, told the inquiry the company had yet to receive a formal slot approval from the ITU as the process could take years to finalise, adding that the company would continue to prepare the satellite for launch.

"It is possible for a company to purchase a satellite in advance of it being put into use and the orbital slots being finalised,” the ITU told NBN Co.

"In order to secure those slots the notifying authority, which in Australia is the Australian Communications and Media Authority [ACMA], needs to (a) initialise the registration procedure with the ITU, and (b) resolve any major compatibility issues with operators of neighbouring satellites.

"So long as there are no regional objections and the ITU registration process is underway, an operator can proceed with its launch plans."

According to NBN Co, the ITU international frequency coordination process has been underway since August 2010, with Quigley noting the formalities are expected to be completed before the satellites are in orbit in 2015.

The satellites are designed to deliver broadband to the three per cent of premises outside of the NBN’s reach, including outback areas and external territories such as Norfolk and Christmas Island.

The company entered into a $620 million contract with commercial broadband satellite manufacturer Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) in February for the satellite build.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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