Business participation key to broadband access

The participation of regional businesses could be the key to remote WA communities receiving two-way broadband access to the internet.

Optus and a small South Australian-based company, Apertura, have combined their technologies to offer satellite broadband coverage to anywhere in Australia and New Zealand.

The two companies are working to a business plan that would allow local agents to set up a “broadband island” in areas with enough potential users to make the project cost-effective.

Michael Kenneally, an Apertura director, said the two companies had had discussions about their plans for Western Australia and, although these were still just “speculative”, he was hopeful concrete opportunities would arise.

He said the real target markets for the service were businesses and health and education facilities.

“These are the people who use a fair bit of bandwidth,” Mr Kenneally said.

Already the companies have installed a virtual private network for a private school in South Australia, and Mr Kenneally said Optus and Apertura had been talking to a network of Lutheran schools across WA, South Australia and the Northern Territory regarding the provision of broadband access.

The new system for broadband delivery involves Optus’ satellite network and Apertura’s wireless broadband expertise.

The premise of the system is that only one satellite dish is needed to provide access to multiple users.

A local agent – the business that owns the satellite dish – is then able to on-sell access to other members of the community. This method, according to Optus, offers the best economies of scale.

Anywhere within the Optus satellite’s footprint, which covers Australia and New Zealand, can participate in the scheme, and in fact work is already progressing on a proposal from New Zealand for a link to be set up on Latham Island.

Mr Kenneally said: “You can’t dig the ground up and put optic fibre out to every community”.

According to Mr Kenneally, the difference between this technology and others is that it is two-way broadband, capable of sending and receiving, rather than just receiving.

“Even if there’s no telephony, it wouldn’t matter – as long as you’ve got power, we can provide the service,” Mr Kenneally said.

“If you wanted to, you could set it up in one day on the Canning Stock Route.”

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