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Wednesday, 18 April 2012 15:29

NBN Co refutes Turnbull's claims of reckless satellite planning

NBN has wheeled out the big guns - the International Telecommunication Union - to refute claims by Malcolm Turnbull that it is being reckless in commissioning geostationary satellites without first securing orbital slots for them.

Questions on the issue put to NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley by the Joint Standing Committee on the NBN on Monday, where he revealed that the orbital slot application process was still ongoing despite NBN Co having ordered two satellites at a total cost of $660m. This revelation provoked a blistering attack from shadow communications minister Turnbull.

In response NBN Co sought confirmation that its commencement of satellite construction in parallel with securing orbital allocations for them was neither reckless nor unusual.

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

"In order to secure those slots the notifying authority, which in Australia is the Australian Communications and Media Authority, 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."

NBN Co also called on people "engaged by NBN Co on the satellite frequency coordination process [who] are internationally-acknowledged expert consultants in the field in support of its claims."


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Bill hope "a senior executive at Optus and SingTel for 15 years from 1992-2007" (and before that at Australia's satellite operator Aussat) said: "The ITU statement refutes utterly the suggestion that NBN Co is taking 'highly unusual risks' by signing contracts to build and launch satellites 'without securing their orbital parking spots first'. Anyone suggesting otherwise either does not understand the process or is being disingenuous."

He added: "As the ITU says, it's not uncommon to launch a satellite before it has received final assent from the agency. I remember on one occasion at Optus the approvals process was so drawn out that the satellite was entered into the ITU's Master Register several years after it had been launched and was nearing the end of its lifespan. That said, I anticipate no such problems with the NBN satellites."

Hendrik Prins "a satellite regulatory specialist who has led Australian delegations to the ITU and has chaired joint ACMA and communications industry technical committees," said: "NBN Co is following the approach required by both ACMA and the ITU to engage in the international frequency coordination process. This is designed to ensure efficient use of the shared radiocommunications spectrum and other orbital resources.

"NBN Co's technical analyses, which were used to select the orbital locations, combined with the results of multiple meetings that have been held with sponsoring operators and nations responsible for other Ka-band satellites lead me to one conclusion: The ITU process that NBN Co has embarked on can be successfully completed on schedule and before the planned launch of the satellites in 2015."

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