Remote Connectivity Demand Boosts Optus Satellite Throughout 2014
Australia’s remote connectivity needs are fueling growth for domestic satellite operator Optus Satellite. The company’s latest satellite, Optus 10, began commercial service this month following a Sept. 11 Ariane 5 launch. Optus Satellite Vice President Paul Sheridan told that demand for telecommunications and broadcasting in and around Australia propelled the company throughout 2014.
“This year, we’ve also seen growth in on-demand telecommunications services as remote communities, tourists and regional businesses seek access to reliable mobile and broadband services, anytime and anywhere. We’re also seeing good growth in the Machine-to-Machine (M2M) space, as businesses look to monitor assets and infrastructure located on remote work sites. There’s also a mounting appetite for disaster recovery services that enable businesses to quickly restore their business-critical communication systems,” he said.
Mainland Australia is 7.69 million square kilometers, making it the largest country in the world after Russia, Canada, China, the United States and Brazil. Australia’s ocean territory is also the third largest in the world. Optus Satellite serves the continent and surrounding regions including New Zealand and McMurdo Sound, Antarctica using a fleet of six satellites. Sheridan described the most recent satellite as part of a long-term multi-faceted strategy, providing increased fleet resilience and capacity to deliver voice, data and video services. The SSL-built satellite carries 24 Ku-band transponders and is located at 164 degrees east.
“Satellite services will always play an important role in a country the size and scope of Australia,” said Sheridan. “We are seeing healthy demand for mobile and data services from a range of enterprises operating in isolated parts of the country including gas and mineral exploration ventures, agricultural leases and emergency services.”
Sheridan said Optus is often the only means of accessing Free-to-Air (FTA) and pay-TV content for many households in Australia and New Zealand. He added the company is seeing strong growth in this region, especially for High Definition (HD) broadcasts.
Optus is confident 4K will one day become a broadcasting norm in these markets too, but that it needs more time for the technology to become regular.
“While ultra-high definition content has been embraced by the film industry, demand for 4K television remains limited for good reason. The introduction of 4K content requires wholesale change within the broadcast ecosystem. Just like the previous evolution from Standard Definition to High Definition television, mainstreaming 4K technology requires changes to transmission schemes and set top boxes, along with access to adequate content,” he said.
Sheridan mentioned next generation Set Top Boxes (STBs) as a catalyst for 4K becoming routine in the future.
Optus is also working with Australia’s state-owned National Broadcast Network (NBN Co) to supply broadband access to remote parts of the country. The satellite operator is providing capacity, network infrastructure, customer premise equipment and operating systems for interfacing with NBN Co and retail service providers as part of a five-year agreement that began in 2011. Sheridan said these services would continue until NBN Co has established its own infrastructure.
In February, NBN Co signed a five-year agreement with Optus to operate two new Ka-band satellites for the organization’s long-term satellite service. Once launched in 2015, Optus is contracted to provide tracking, telemetry and control services for the spacecraft.
NBN Co is in the process of beefing up its infrastructure, in part by acquiring Optus’ coaxial access network in parts of the country. The organization completed nine out of 10 ground stations as of September this year. Sheridan said finalizing the installation and testing of the systems and processes to support Optus’ contract with NBN Co will be a key focus in the coming months.
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