Optus has announced what it describes as “a giant leap in its satellite business” with the confirmation of a contract with Airbus Defence and Space for a new, OneSat software-defined satellite, Optus 11, to be deployed for Australia and New Zealand in 2023 at the current Optus D1 orbital location of 160°East.
Optus has also entered into a revised agreement with Sky New Zealand which will be the cornerstone customer leveraging the new satellite.
Optus will be the first satellite operator in Asia Pacific to launch a software-defined satellite that can provide both flexible concurrent broadcast and broadband services via a very high throughput satellite (VHTS) design.
The satellite is fully configurable in space, meaning its location, coverage, bandwidth and capacity can be changed in orbit as customer demands evolve – where traditional satellites are limited by on-ground configurations that cannot be altered after launch.
Optus Chief Executive Officer, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said: “Today’s exciting news is a testament to Optus’s commitment to invest in cutting-edge next generation technology to enhance our world-class communication networks. Optus 11 cements our scale and leadership in the trans-Tasman satellite industry, and will enable us to provide unique, flexible services and customer experiences tailored to our customers’ needs.”
Optus Managing Director, Wholesale, Satellite and Strategy, Ben White said: “Optus 11’s software-defined technology marks a paradigm shift in how satellite communication will be delivered across Australia and New Zealand and it will offer unparalleled flexibility for our satellite customers. Telecom markets don’t stand still and the ability to re-configure payloads in-orbit is a game-changer. It allows us to adapt to shifting business landscapes and tailor the delivery of services and capacity through dynamic beam-forming technologies.”
Sitting 36,000km above Earth, Optus 11 is also able to host a satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) payload – which has the ability to greatly enhance the accuracy and precision of existing GPS and positioning systems across the ANZ region and pinpoint a location to within a decimetre, without the need for mobile or internet coverage.
Optus 11 will join five other Optus satellites in orbit and expands Optus’ geo-stationary satellite fleet to become the largest in the company’s and Australia’s history.
Mr White added: “Optus 11 will add capacity and resilience to our satellite fleet and its unique capabilities will give our broadcast customers the option to tailor their dynamic video delivery via IP streaming, and our broadband customers can benefit from better performance and higher individual throughputs. In addition, it will support the Optus mobile network using satellite backhaul and the Government’s Mobile Black Spot Programs (MBSP).
“The spacecraft’s ground-breaking design is a very exciting development and software-defined satellites will become the future of this industry. We look forward to bringing this new, world-leading technology to Australia and New Zealand and continuing to support Australian jobs in the Space industry.”
Optus will also be the first operator in the world to utilise the Ku band (11-14GHz) spectrum for the software defined VHTS in both broadcast and broadband services. Optus 11 will also provide greater coverage than our previous satellites, with a reach from Antarctica to the Cocos Islands and covering a vast majority of the Pacific region. It will have the ability to cover oceans previously out of reach to Optus and provide tracking spot beams coverage to planes and vessels anywhere within the Optus 11 footprint.
Sky NZ has agreed to a revised contract with Optus that delivers satellite capability for the next ten years, with the ability to flex the transponder capacity taken by Sky over the term of the arrangement with corresponding cost savings, and new functionality.
Sky Chief Executive Martin Stewart says: “While Sky is embracing a streaming future, we remain committed to the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who currently rely on our satellite services to receive their sport and entertainment. The revised contract with Optus gives these customers comfort that we will be able to continue to deliver our great content to them without disruption and as we have done successfully for many years.
“Our goal is to deliver content to every New Zealander, in ways that work for them. The New Zealanders who do not have access to streaming-capable internet can rest assured that we have them covered.
“Many New Zealanders with broadband continue to enjoy the reliability and ease of the Sky satellite service. We encourage them to connect their Sky box to their home wi-fi and enjoy everything on offer on Sky on Demand. Our streaming services Sky Sport Now and the new Neon service also offer superb options for those who want to stream only.”
The revised contract maintains the benefits of the existing arrangement including the ability to sub-licence capacity, particularly to free-to-air channels, and to access the D3 satellite to provide redundancy during the remainder of its service life.
“As investors may recall from our recent Capital Raise documentation and other announcements, the existing Optus contract was conditional on Optus taking sufficient steps to procure the successful launch of a new satellite to replace the existing primary satellite. The revised contract provides additional commitments and assurances for Sky on the success of the replacement.
“The Optus satellite remains a cost-effective way to deliver Sky’s service to our DTH base, and satellite households continue to be our most valuable and loyal customers.
“It is therefore very pleasing to be able to confirm this revised contract with Optus which provides for increased flexibility as Sky and New Zealanders move towards a more IP-focused future.”