Vocus tees up Musk’s satellites to boost rural internet

Wildblood said the new deal could allow mining companies and farmers to gain access to reliable internet in areas they otherwise couldn’t, or improve connectivity in remote schools in the Northern Territory.

“We’ve actually done some consulting work into Northern Territory Government to work out how they can solve communication into remote schools, particularly Arnhem Land,” Wildblood said. “Now [Starlink] is commercially available, how do we construct solutions for them that enable them to get coverage across multiple sites not just one individual site.”

“In remote, regional communities, it’s a game changer in education, it’s a game changer in health and safety, it’s a game changer in agriculture, mining, oil and gas.”

Wildblood said there were also opportunities to use LEO satellites during natural disasters when telecommunications infrastructure is impacted by floods or fires. He said there was also a business case with the rise of cybercrime.

“Satellite is increasingly going to play a more important part in national security,” he said. “We’ve seen the situations that have gone on at Optus and Medibank…but if you think about nation state attacks in the state of war – the first thing to do is take our communication networks.

“If they take out the terrestrial communication networks, you’ve got to communicate somehow and satellite provides optionality.”

Wildblood said he did not expect the deal would lead to a material increase in earnings over the next few years, but believes it will allow Vocus to reach more people and take market share.

“We have about 10 per cent of the business market in data and IP,” he said. “We strongly believe this will give us opportunity to take market share from [geostationary orbit] satellite providers plus NBN services that might be operating on traditional satellites. Plus, it opens up opportunities to complement our fibre.”

Vocus is one of several telecommunications providers exploring ways to invest in LEO satellites, which sit about 300 km from earth (NBN’s satellites sit 36,000 km from earth). Telstra announced in September it was testing OneWeb’s LEO satellites in Australia (Vocus already has a relationship with OneWeb). In October, the federal government said it was looking at using LEO satellites to improve regional telecommunications coverage.

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