Well, in my most recent post about Space and the Australian election I said: "Space, whilst not being the number one topic, is increasingly gaining influence. " How quickly that would prove true, with the NBN playing a major role in the decision of who should form government - particularly the NBN as it relates to outback Australia - read Satellite Broadband.
Now NewSat has joined in the debate strongly by taking out a half page advertisement in the Australian Financial Review highlighting how they could provide Satellite broadband much better than the planned services for the NBN. Clearly, NewSat has an enormous vested interested in attacking the NBN plans, as it recently had its proposals rejected by NBN, and stands a much better chance of success with its own services if the NBN plan is cancelled.
However, in this article for ITWire, NewSat chief executive officer Adrian Ballantine has highlighted how suitable satellite broadband is for Australia's geography. He is quoted as also saying:
“Yet unbelievably we are the one country in the OECD without a space policy. This illustrates that the key decision makers who have shaped broadband policies have been lacking the right knowledge about what is possible, what is needed and what is the right solution.”
The article goes on to identify how the Government has recently been making improvements through the Space Policy Unity and the Australian Space Research Program.
From an Australian Space Industry Perspective, I couldn't agree more with Mr Ballantine. Australia is one of the best suited countries geographically speaking to utilise Space based services for many things - including Communications. And to not have a serious knowledge within the Australian government, is a bad outcome for Australia in general.
Although to counter the NewSat arguments, Satellite based broadband makes sense where ground based technologies become cost-ineffective, which is true in many parts of Australia. The different between GEO based broadband and fibre, is the much greater latency issues associated, which causes problems for real-time applications such as voice calls and gaming. I'd also argue that a guaranteed 12MBps is much better than the "chance" of getting any other service, and much better than the dial-up connections that some still have to cope with.
However, other Space Based solutions may also be available to solve that problem. For example, the people at O3B (or Other 3 Billion), are currently developing a LEO constellation to provide communications network, to provide communications to the "Other 3 Billion" - or those who currently don't have access to it worldwide. This type of system might work very well in the regional parts of Australia.
Whatever side you are on, this is a clear example where Space technology is increasingly part of Australia's national needs. The least we can do is have a debate that is truly informed by Australian Space experts - underpinned by a National Space Policy. Only then can we fairly decide how best to use Space for Australia.