Richard Branson tells Turnbull OneWeb satellites could save Australian broadband


blog Just when you thought Australia’s broadband scene couldn’t get any more absurd, along comes something which breaks the mold yet again. And you can always count on serial entrepreneur Richard Branson to up the hype to record levels. Branson, according to the Financial Review (we recommend you click here for the full article) is reportedly in town this week visiting, among other people, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. His message is something like: ‘Dump the NBN satellites, I’ve got my own’. The newspaper reports:

“Branson, who is visiting Australia this week, also said he would pitch his global satellite venture to the Coalition government as an ‚Äčalternative to the “incredibly expensive” National Broadband Network (NBN) for bringing internet connectivity to remote parts of Australia.”

Now, I’ve had a look at the OneWeb company Branson is involved in. It’s got some formidable investment behind it, and it is indeed looking like it may — at some point in the future — be able to boost levels of broadband access in less developed countries.

But I have to say, to pitch something like this to Turnbull — who is about to launch Australia’s own satellite solution — is nothing short of pointless.

What, precisely, would Branson have our intrepid Communications Minister do? Cancel the NBN satellite launch which is only a few short weeks away — you know, the one that was already built at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars? Have the NBN company pay Branson for additional satellite access, when its already launching two of its own? Or should Turnbull alternatively abandon the NBN’s fixed wireless rollout?

I’m sure OneWeb has a future somewhere in the world. But with Australia’s NBN already extremely well-advanced, I don’t see it having much of a future Down Under. The Government is already too deeply invested in the current plan.

But then, we do live in a topsy turvy mixed-up world where the Australian Government is buying back the Telstra copper and HFC cable networks it flogged off to the private sector just a few year ago. We’re in crazy land at this point. Anything could happen from here.

Image credit: Jarle Naustvik, Creative Commons


  1. Silly Renai… Something something private enterprise… something something wireless is the future.

    • Seriously though, surely if infrastructure competition is something that is truly good, according to the LNP and their supporters, wouldn’t OneWeb be falling over themselves to provide their service to Australians without the need for handouts from the Australian government to do it? ;-)

  2. Nice idea, those low earth orbit satellites can give a pretty low latency connection. But at 8GB they would need a least 16 satellites orbiting over Australia at any time to provide the same capacity. That will happen eventually if they go ahead with their plan of 2500 satellites, but until they reach about 1500 it will have lower capacity. Also the nature of the low earth orbit satellites means they aren’t great at high density areas, so major city use would have to be limited or you’ll use all the capacity and leave those in nearby country locations with very little.

  3. orbits that cover the southern states are very inefficient an expensive to maintain in comparison.

    You never know though MTM may change wireless NBN to LEO NBN or shrink the non wireless area’s again lol.

  4. This is all great publicity for OneWeb.

    Whilst its not an immediate challenge to the NBN-LTS it may offer something to Australia such as data comms for aircraft and ships. There may also be those who would pay for the lower latency.

  5. You never know, the launch of the NBN ones may blow up…

    And I do like the idea that they are LEO, makes the latency issue bearable.

    Anyone know what the throughput is on them?

  6. Christmas Island (and Norfolk Island) are using the O3b MEO and getting 120-150ms latency and negligible loss.

    At 350k shipped and installed the terminal on Christmas Island was not cheap – but if NBN estimates of $8,500 per user for the sat service, the cost of connecting the 600 subscribers on Christmas Island to the low latency O3b service was about the same cost as connecting 40 households to NBN skymuster. Almost all media releases regarding skymuster mention the external territories, the reality is where there us a cluster or some density there are better cheaper solutions than NBN and unlike OneWeb they are available today.

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