NBN satellite gateway for Merimbula


news Merimbula, on the NSW Far South Coast, is to be the site of the National Broadband Company’s first satellite ground station gateway. This facility will enable NBN’s Long Term Satellite Service (LTSS) to “transmit high-speed internet to homes, farms and businesses in remote parts of Australia,” a media release by NBN Co issued last week said.

The first of ten such satellite facilities, construction is set to begin next year. It is scheduled to start operations in 2015,when NBN Co plans to launch the satellites that will provide high-speed broadband coverage to about three per cent of premises that fall outside the reach of the NBN’s planned fibre optic and fixed-wireless services (till 2015, NBN Co will continue to provide its Interim Satellite Service, which offers slower speeds than its planned own launches, through relying on other companies’ infrastructure).

The National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) has signed on Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) to build two next-generation Ka-band satellites.

Matt Dawson, NBN Co’s Satellite Project Director, said: “Merimbula was chosen for a number of reasons: The climate is perfect for our needs. It’s also located close to reliable power and other infrastructure including the NBN’s core fibre transit network.” He added that the town would not miss out on the fibre optic broadband. Dawson also remarked that subject to the finalisation of the roll-out plans, “many in the town of Merimbula will receive the fibre optic service before the end of the planned 10-year rollout of the nationwide upgrade to Australia’s communication infrastructure.”

The Mayor of Bega Valley Shire Council, Tony Allen, stated: “NBN Co’s decision to site the satellite ground station gateway at Wolumla is a very positive thing for the Shire.” There would be opportunity for local businesses to benefit from high-speed broadband internet. He also said that when the development application was lodged, NBN Co planned to make more information available about the construction of the site so that community members could comment on and ask questions about the facility during the DA process.

SS/L is a leading manufacturer of commercial broadband satellites, and has produced the largest number of commercial Ka-band satellites globally. It is a subsidiary of Loral Space and Communications, and provides spacecraft for a wide range of services including television and radio distribution, digital audio radio, broadband Internet and mobile communications. Under the terms of the contract, SS/L will also provide associated telemetry, tracking and command systems for NBN Co’s LTSS.

The Long Term Satellite Service (LTSS) is designed to provide a basic download speed of up to 12Mbps at the wholesale level, which is the same basic speed and AVC access price ($24 per month) across fibre, satellite and wireless. The LTSS is part of NBN Co’s plan to build an integrated national network that will utilise fibre, satellite and wireless technologies.

The site for the ground station gateway and six satellite dishes in Wolumla, approximately 15 kilometres north-west of the township of Merimbula, was selected after extensive consultations with the Bega Valley Shire Council. The fall-outs of this high-tech facility are that it will bring economic benefits to the local area during construction and beyond, and employ full-time staff.

Image credit: NBN Co


  1. From the AEC:

    Profile of the electoral division of Eden-Monaro (NSW)

    “Eden-Monaro covers an area of approximately 29 499 sq km from Queanbeyan to South Durras in the north, south to the Victorian border, extending to the southern and eastern borders of the Australian Capital Territory. The main towns include Adaminaby, Batemans Bay, Bega, Berridale, Bodalla, Bombala, Braidwood, Bungendore, Captains Flat, Cooma, Dalmeny, Delegate, Eden, Jindabyne, Merimbula, Moruya, Narooma, Queanbeyan, Sutton and Tathra.”

    From the good old Poll Bludger:

    “Taking in the south-eastern corner of New South Wales, including Queanbeyan, Cooma, Tumut and the coast from Moruya south to Eden and the Victorian border, Eden-Monaro is renowned throughout the land as the seat that goes with the party who wins the election.”

    Needless to say, obviously this location was selected for purely technical reasons, without any doubt. Lovely location, with lush rolling green hills and surrounding countryside. Very fertile land, I wonder if it gets much rain? You know about rain, the stuff that blots out Ka band microwave. Probably the NBN have already figured out how to get around the rain, very clever guys, I trust them completely. The only place I can think of that would be a better location would be, oh, Newcastle I guess.

    • How do you think satellite works man? We cant defeat the weather, just because we’re building a satellite because YOU think we should.

      What – do you expect the people in remote communities to go WITHOUT because YOU think that majority poor weather is a good reason?

      What if we asked the locals? do you think they’re going to be happy with NO internet because the weathers bad? I’ve handled the new Ericsson satellite relay system when Vodafone Network Upgrades began. Its excellent technology. For the most part its only a minor reduction in speed. While there is a higher rate of loss, thats expected with poor weather as not on is satellite services affected, but all wireless services are. (Radio Frequency propagates poorly through water vapour for those playing at home)

      When my team reassembled a Telstra site last week, it was on an island. You know – the ones surrounded by sea water, poor shelter and lots of vegetation? Those same islands that cause havoc on communications equipment. Or maybe by your logic, those people there shouldnt have any Mobile Services at all, because you know – its a poorly chosen location.

      Just Sayin.

      • Some places in Australia rain harder and more often than others, go to this thing called “Google Maps” and zoom out until you see a full picture of Australia, make sure it is in the satellite photography mode, not the road map mode. Done that OK?

        The yellow/brown bits get less rain than the green bits.

        Just saying.

        • Seems to me…

          When there’s nothing to whinge about regarding the NBN, some people will just create something/anything.

          Pity they don’t use such creativity to study the NBNs positives, as they do inventing new/non-existent negatives, just so as to continue the hatred?

          Just saying.

          • Placement of a gateway is a compromise between available infrastructure (i.e. power and backhaul fiber) and rainfall. Cooper Pedy (just for example) has excellently low rainfall, but rather poor infrastructure.

            There’s already fiber running from Adelaide up to Darwin, and a place like Woomera is fiber connected, and has a link into the main SA electricity grid (see maps at Electranet). Woomera has a typical monthly rainfall less than 20mm (while Bega is approx 10x more rain). Sure Woomera is in a military zone but the NBN gateway is rather security sensitive infrastructure so that might actually be more of an advantage than a disadvantage. Anyhow, it doesn’t have to be right AT Woomera, it could be anywhere nearby. That’s just my first guess after about 10 minutes searching around google.

            If you don’t like Woomera the follow up the highway and look for other candidates along that fiber, or at any rate make an effort to find something based on similar criteria. Bega is a great place for cheese and cows, and even perhaps a bottle of wine, but it’s a crap place for a Ka band satellite gateway. My personal opinion of course — but I’ve made my reasons pretty clear.

        • Some places in Australia rain harder and more often than others


          Average annual rainfall in Sydney is 1212.8 mm.
          Average annual rainfall in Merimbula is…*drum roll*…834.6 mm.


          So, indeed, it rains MORE in Sydney – (where the entire fleet of Optus satellites are operated from) – than in Merimbula, which will be one of several locations two NBN Co satellites will capable of being operated from.

          We don’t hear how Optus are struggling to control their fleet, do we?

          Thanks for playing Derp Machine!

    • covers an area of approximately 29 499 sq km

      that much eh.

      i wonder if they’ll build one in the electoral divisions of Durack (1,587,758 km² ) or O’Conner (908,954 km² )?
      both of which are non-ALP seats.

  2. Wow…lots of derp in this comment thread.

    I suppose it never rains heavily in Sydney where all the Optus satellites are controlled from.

    No, never.

    • Is this the sort of “herpa-derp” you had in mind?


      “RE OPTUS Total signal outage

      It was a large storm that passed through Sydney & over the Belrose area in Sydney’s Northern suburbs where Optus’ main Earth station is. All B3, B1, PAS8 signals plus others that originate from the Sydney area or the Optus Main Satellite Earth station, were lost for a period of time due to rain fade & thick cloud, which stopped the signal getting through to the Satellites. The local ABC Terrestrial services went off the air because the transmitters receive their feed signals off the B1 Satellite.”

      That would be the kind of “herpa-derp” I would be interested in avoiding, given that it is my money being spent here, I’d kind of like it to work and all. Well, more accurately, it’s my kid’s money, but I’m just doing my best on their behalf.

        • Flipping a big carrier between gateways is tricky stuff, presumably in the above example back in 2002, Optus just shrugged and let customers suck it up on the outage. I don’t have a detailed log of outages, and I’m sure that Optus does have, but don’t expect them to post it around here.

          Now that you prompt me to check the article closely it does say they intend to build ten different gateways, I guess they won’t all be in Bega. Given that the customers will only have a choice of one carrier, it’s not like they are going to be able to say, “Hey the other guy is better.”

          • Mate, seriously.

            There are going to be TEN base stations here. This is only the first one.

            I’m quite sure that at least some of them will be in more remote locations, just to satisfy your need for them to be in an arid location.

            Just as some of them will be in locations such as Merimbula to provide redundancy and network resiliency. Arguing that it’s a “bad location” because it rains sometimes is just stupid and non-sensical.

            It rains EVERYWHERE.

            And what if there’s a power issue in one of your outback locations? What then? Do we just wait until it gets fixed?

            What if there’s an earthquake and a location is obliterated?

            Use you head mate, I know you’re smarter than that.

            Switching between locations is NOT difficult, and is a non-issue. All of the locations would have the ability to control the system at all times.

          • It rains EVERYWHERE.

            Not in equal amounts, and that’s exactly my point.

            I look forward to see their gateway switching strategy, I’m sure they have some very excellent advanced technology up their sleeve that will stun the communications world.

          • “And what if there’s a power issue in one of your outback locations? What then? Do we just wait until it gets fixed?”

            Errr, you install these things called “batteries”, and a bigger thing called (wait for it) a “backup generator”. You might have noticed those big tanks of diesel hanging around at data centers right in the middle of the city. They are there because no one can really trust the power supply, regardless of where they are. I’m willing to bet they will even be installed in Bega, or wherever.

            There’s also this concept of signing a contract, so if the power is out for more than a day, the penalty clause pays for a truck to top up your tank of diesel. Ask Malcolm Turnbull, he can explain things like finance, risk management, and all that banker stuff. So I’m told he’s quite good at it, used to work for some very clever people.

          • “So I’m told he’s (MT) quite good at it, used to work for some very clever people.”

            “Used to”, indeed… unlike his current colleagues ;-)

      • I’ll just act as a repeater here for VK2XSO who seems to have a clue:

        “Yep, the higher power transponders will have a better chance, but when there is enough of anything between you and the satellite, it’s going to drop out. If it drops out at the customer end, only a few hundred customers go down for a few minutes. They don’t tollerate it at the uplink becasue all the customers go down. The guy in Alice Springs is wondering why his Austar is down during the footy on a sunny day, because Sydney has a thunderstorm. I’ve seen the services on a >30m dish with >2kW of power drop out for ~10 minutes during thunderstorms. In the tropics during wet season, every afternoon you just expect it to happen.

        Ka band is even more susseptable to rainfade, which is why Ka Band earth stations like the ones used for IPSTAR are located in Australian deserts.”


          • It must occur to you there’s a reason why historic events have NOT taken the strategy that you advocate.

            Admittedly, the future is always different to the past, but after that your guesswork is as good as mine.

  3. Funny to watch the debating about something that will most likely never even happen.

    • Due to blind political bastardry, the NBN in it’s entirety (and these satellites) may never be completed, but the NBN is already happening in many places, so invalid point, imo.

  4. Personally I find Merimbula a very strange location to pick for a satellite landing station. Maybe NBNco have offering satellite services to New Zealand as a backup plan? :P

  5. Unfortunately NBN, dead in the water thanks to Abbott and Turnbull.
    Late 2013 it will end.

Comments are closed.