The huge cost of the national broadband development project has prompted criticisms from the opposition party. Opposition leader Tony Abbot is citing the low subscription rate of NBN networks as he urges the government to abandon future plans of extending fiber networks in rural areas. The lower-than-expected growth rate of NBN clientele raises more concerns as to whether NBN has been prudent enough in spending people's taxes, and whether building satellites is really better than leasing.
NBN CEO Mike Quigley stood by the satellite contract, arguing that Australia has no sufficient satellite communications capacity. Optus admits that its Ku-band satellites cannot accommodate the amount of satellite capacity needed by NBN.
Being the only independent satellite firm in Australia, NewSat has been keen to be a part of the massive broadband project, but the company's CEO is disappointed with NBN's lack of interest on what NewSat can offer. The satellite communications carrier will launch two Ka-band satellites a year ahead of the launching date of NBN's. Ballintine told CommsDay that his company has never been invited by NBN to discuss potential collaboration despite NewSat's technical expertise and long-standing reputation in teleport services.
Ballintine argued that building a satellite is not the most cost-effective option for NBN since it could have leased satellite capacity on Jabiru fleet instead. He said this would involve only a fraction of the cost spent by NBN on its satellite contract. "It’s simply disappointing that we weren’t consulted, because we’ve got something to say,” Ballintine said.
Ballintine is extremely puzzled as to why NBN has chosen not to talk with NewSat despite the company's world-class teleports in Perth and Adelaide, which are rated as among the best in the industry by the US military and the World Teleport Association. NewSat is also the largest employer in the local space sector.
There is a possibility of unhealthy competition resulting from the excess capacity of NBN's satellites, warned Ballintine. One of the two proposed NBN satellites is mainly intended for backup purposes only. The spare capacity can be resold and find its way in the commercial market for consumption by oil, mining and gas industries. This could have a serious effect on NewSat's business, Ballintine said. He added that taxpayers would definitely hate the idea of helping foreign capacity buyers to exploit cheap rates due to unused local surplus.
Nevertheless, the CEO is still optimistic of the prospects of the Jabiru fleet. Jabiru 1 and Jabiru 2 satellites are going well as planned, and the funding for Jabiru 1 is about to be completed. Over the past months, the company has been signing multi-million contracts with energy, telecommunications and mining companies. The company is looking forward to securing credits from US Ex-Im Bank and Coface of France. The terms of the financing are expected to be announced in April or May.