Viasat to build NBN satellite stations

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Viasat to build NBN satellite stations
A rendered mock-up of an NBN satellite ground station.

Litigation of no concern, NBN Co says.

US-based satellite company Viasat has snared a $280 million contract to build ten ground stations integral to the satellite component of the National Broadband Network.

Under the contract, Viasat will manufacture and supply two 13.5-metre dishes at each of the ground stations by 2015, along with the household satellite dishes, and transmission equipment in NBN Co's data centres.

They will form part of the $2 billion long-term satellite service NBN Co expects to launch that same year comprising the ground stations, launch services which are yet to be contracted and two, Ka-band satellites NBN Co currently under construction by Space Systems/Loral under a $620 million deal.

It is believed the contract for the ground station services was largely a negotiation between Viasat and its key rival Hughes.

However, the tender process has been marred by ongoing litigation in the US between Space Systems/Loral, Viasat and Hughes over allegations of patent infringements.

Viasat sued Loral on the eve of the original satellite contract with NBN Co claiming the latter company infringed on existing patents to build a Ka-band satellite for Hughes.

Loral counter-sued Viasat in April, also claiming patent infringement and arguing that the ground station contractor "even claims fundamental principles of physics as its own 'proprietary information'".

Industry publication Space News reported claims in March that Viasat could look to block Loral's contract with NBN Co as part of the litigation.

But an NBN Co spokeswoman said the litigation did not affect the tendering process.

"We have received assurances from our satellite supplier that the litigation will not affect its ability to perform under the contract," she told iTnews.

"Likewise, we have received assurances from our ground equipment supplier that the litigation will not affect its ability to work cooperatively with our satellite supplier."

Viasat was not available to comment at the time of writing.

Ground stations

Once established, the ten ground stations will act as the backhaul links between premises connected to the NBN's long-term satellite service and the satellites covering approximately 200,000 premises with 12 Mbps peak download speeds.

Traffic received from the satellite is then backhauled to one of 40 points of interconnect earmarked in regional locations for connection to the rest of the network. They would serve as a backhaul location for up to 20,000 premises connecting to the satellite in the area.

NBN Co has confirmed three satellite stations to date and is under negotiations with local councils in a further seven locations to host the sites ahead of an expected start to construction next year.

The use of ten sites contrasts to lower-powered satellite networks from Optus and IPSTAR currently in use in Australia, each of which use two stations.

The NBN product is expected to provide a combined throughput of 90 Gbps over the two satellites to be launched, a significant boost over the interim satellite service based on rented capacity from Optus and IPSTAR.

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