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NBN Co's satellite order procedures 'correct': UN

Advice comes after Opposition questioned satellite launch plans.

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The company responsible for building Australia's national broadband network (NBN) says its satellite launch plans are on course after a United Nations agency confirmed its procedures are correct.

The UN communications agency - the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) - released advice overnight on Tuesday saying it was not uncommon to buy satellites before finalising their orbit positions in space. The advice was sought after federal opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull earlier this week questioned NBN Co chief Mike Quigley at a joint parliamentary hearing about the launch plans.

Mr Turnbull wanted to know if the government-owned enterprise had secured slots for its two satellites due for launch in 2015.

Mr Quigley said NBN Co had applied to the ITU for four slots and he did not anticipate there would be a problem in securing them, but he did acknowledge there was a ''very, very small risk'' the slots would be not organised before the launch.

The Geneva-based agency said it was possible to buy a satellite in advance of it being put into use and the orbital slots being finalised.

''So long as the there are no regional objections and the ITU registration process is under way, an operator can proceed with its launch plans,'' the ITU said in its advice.


NBN consultant Bill Hope, a former chief technical officer at Optus Australia and Singtel Singapore, said the ITU advice refuted suggestions NBN Co was taking ''highly unusual risks'' by signing contracts for satellites without having their ''orbital parking spots first''.

''Anyone suggesting otherwise either does not understand the process or is being disingenuous,'' he said in a statement.

''As the ITU say, it's not uncommon to launch a satellite before it has received final assent from the agency."

When he was at Optus, Mr Hope said the approval process for one satellite took so long it was entered into the ITU's master register several years after it had been launched.

In February, NBN Co awarded a $620 million contract to US firm Space Systems/Loral to build two next generation Ka-band satellites. NBN Co is building a fibre-optic cable network to provide high-speed broadband to 93 per cent of homes, schools, hospitals and businesses across Australia by 2021.

It will provide high-speed broadband to 4 per cent of Australians by fixed-wireless networks and the remaining 3 per cent by two satellites due to be launched six months apart in 2015.

Optus has defended NBN Co's decision to launch its own satellites.


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