NBN Co reaches to ITU for satellite assurance

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NBN Co reaches to ITU for satellite assurance

Updated: Attempts to dislodge Coalition criticisms.

NBN Co has sought assurances from the International Telecommunications Union that it could still launch long-term satellites in 2015, despite currently lacking orbital slots for the craft.

The company said it had received advice overnight from the ITU that NBN Co's current bid to the ITU for the slots required to launch the two Ka-band satellites above Australia were in line with precedent.

"It is possible for a company to purchase a satellite in advance of it being put into use and the orbital slots being finalised," an NBN Co spokesman said in a statement, paraphrasing the ITU's advice.

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

NBN Co and its chief executive Mike Quigley have sought to play down concerns raised by the Coalition this week that buying satellites without securing the orbital slots first is risky to the entire $2 billion project.

Should the coalition gain government before 2015, it is unlikely the long-term satellite component would be torn down due to the forward payments and $2 billion in contractual commitments NBN Co is expected to have signed by the 2013 election.

"It will be interesting to see how that debate progresses within the satellite industry," shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull said Wednesday.

"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."

The satellites will ultimately provide broadband services to 200,000 premises or three percent of the Australian population as part of the NBN.

Slot fight

Though objections to NBN Co's slot bid had not been received to date, Quigley recently indicated some objections could be made by rival satellite operators.

They could include those companies who have sought to sell NBN Co their own, existing orbital slots above Australia.

NBN Co has been pursuing approval of the slots since August 2010 but the process could take several years and, should there be significant issues, could extend beyond the planned 2015 launch date of NBN Co's satellites.

NBN Co has taken advice from former Optus executives and ITU consultants to the Federal Government as part of its bid process.

According to NBN Co, the ITU said the local communications regulator - the ACMA - must first initialise registration procedures with the ITU and resolve any major compatibility issues with neighbouring satellites.

ACMA executive manager of communications infrastructure, Andrew Kerans, told iTnews the regulator had begun the process on behalf of NBN Co at the ITU level.

"Given the slots are in Ka band, coordination is easier than in lower bands and in my view there is every expectation of successful coordination through to launch," he said.

Updated 11.20am: Added further comment from Turnbull.

Updated 2.50pm: Added statement from ACMA.

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