Satellite broadband blasts off in New Zealand

The launch of the world's largest telecommunications satellite, iPSTAR, means the sky is literally the limit for rural internet users in New Zealand.

Thai-based Shin Satellite has launched the Thaicom satellite which will cover New Zealand with three "spot beams," meaning local users will soon be enjoying their share of 40Gbit/s.

Two local ISPs are working with Shin Satellite to deliver service to New Zealand: rural specialist Bay City and Auckland-based Iconz.

Bay City's founder, Barry Payne, is delighted with the successful launch of the satellite. "It means we can offer service to some 50,000 domiciles in New Zealand that previously couldn't get anything but 22kbit/s dialup."

Payne says the satellite will cover 22 of the world's most populated countries and that being a part of that process is great news for New Zealanders.

"That's a massively fertile market for content providers, so we should think about that. It also means there's a huge market for dishes which should drive the price of the customer equipment down dramatically."

Payne says latency on the satellite service shouldn't be a problem for users as New Zealand will also host one of the earth stations that delivers the satellite service. Video conferencing and Voice over IP services would be readily available.

"We're also considering offering a mobile solution delivered off a different satellite," says Payne.

The satellite's footprint could also help solve one of Australia's telco industry's nagging problems: what to do about coverage in the Australian bush?

As the Australian federal government prepares to sell off its remaining shares in Telstra, various political parties are considering their options and at least one has demanded a bush fund of A$3 billion (US$2.2 billion) to A$6 billion (NZ$3.25 billion to NZ$6.5 billion) be established to ensure non-urban users aren't left out of any future network build.

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