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FOCUS: Optus
SATCOM Service

Optus is currently preparing for the launch of its latest communication satellite, Optus D3. Optus has been a leading provider of satellite services across Australia and New Zealand for nearly 30 years, having successfully launched and operated a total of eight satellites since 1985, with the ninth, Optus D3, to follow in the early second half of this year.

The successful deployment of the Optus D3 satellite will expand Optus’ satellite fleet’s capacity by more than 30 percent, provide an in-orbit redundancy capability, and mark the first use of the Broadcast Satellite Spectrum (BSS) band in Australia.

To support this new frequency band, Optus has constructed a new Earth station in the Canberra suburb of Hume, which will act as the primary means of access to the Optus D3 satellite and also provide additional backup capabilities to Optus’ existing Earth stations in Sydney and Perth. The award-winning Canberra Technical Facility is also used by Optus to support other communication services including mobile, Internet and fixed telephony.

Brett Finch, General Manager, Optus Satellite Engineering, said, “The construction of our new facility in Hume is the latest example of Optus’ ability to adapt to the ever-evolving conditions of the satellite market. When we first built our major Earth stations in the early 1980s, they were distributed throughout Australia and were primarily used to support analogue TV distribution, with customer connections most commonly provided via local microwave links. To a large degree these were turn-key facilities with almost all of the equipment carrying the same brand. “Fast forward 20 years to today and we see satellite technologies that have advanced to a remarkable new level. Satellite has evolved into a mainstream service delivery medium, fully integrated with the access and transport layers of Optus’ full telecommunications network. We now use our satellites to provide a diverse range of services including digital TV, corporate data applications, consumer broadband internet, mobile telephony, cellular backhaul and distance education,” Mr. Finch said.

Optus currently operates three major Earth stations across Australia in Perth, Sydney, and Canberra. These Earth stations allow Optus to provide the associated ground support for a variety of customers using Optus satellites, ranging from major TV broadcasters to broadband Internet consumers. The Sydney and Perth facilities also house the equipment and the specialist operators who manage the command and control of the Optus satellites, as well as the service assurance function for commercial traffic.

“When people think about satellite services, it is usually the satellites that attract most of the attention; however the ground segment is also a critical element in end-to-end service delivery. The provision of efficient and reliable Earth stations is essential for successful business outcomes for satellite operators and our customers,” said Finch. “Rapid changes in technologies and services coupled with the current economic climate will continue to present challenges for operators. To ensure future business growth can be supported through use of these emerging technologies, operators need to adopt different procurement philosophies to years past. To be successful, operators must maintain the capability to integrate products from multiple vendors without sacrificing reliability or quality of service for customers.

“As a result of this evolution, as well as changes in customer demands and other commercial factors, Optus now operates fewer, but larger, Earth station facilities. While aggregation of our traffic through fewer ground-based facilities is a commercial reality, many of our major customers are quite rightly focussed on mitigating risks of service loss for business continuity purposes. For Optus, this means we are committed to careful management of satellite capacity, and to investment in the provision of geographically diverse backup ground access for key commercial services.

“Improved satellite sensitivities and power capabilities mean we don’t always need large scale Earth stations — some services can be supported through more modest facilities. Environmental issues, planning regulations, and increasing competition means there are still significant benefits in using experienced and well established operators.” Mr. Finch said.