Wolumla a "vital" first of ten satellite ground stations

A typical 13-metre antenna (satellite dish) array
A typical 13-metre antenna (satellite dish) array

A council-owned site at Wanatta Lane in Wolumla will launch the Far South Coast into the space age in coming months.

A number of 13 metre-in-diameter antennas or “dishes” will be installed at the site, making it the first of 10 satellite gateway facilities to be built for the long-term satellite service component of the Federal Government's National Broadband Network (NBN).

Other components of the NBN delivering high-speed broadband access are fibre optic and fixed wireless.

The Wolumla long-term satellite ground station will help deliver access to remote communities as part of the overall satellite system.

Far South Coast satellite users (outside the fibre and fixed wireless footprints) won't necessarily receive high-speed broadband through the Wolumla site.

Towns in the region will eventually receive the NBNCo's through fibre optic or fixed wireless services in the future.

NBNCo's satellite program director Matt Dawson spoke with the Magnet on Thursday and explained the importance of the Wolumla site.

"The Wolumla site is critical to us. It will form a vital part of the NBN infrastructure,” he said.

NBNCo will be launching two satellites in 2015 and the Wolumla site needs to be operational ahead of that launch.

"Wolumla will be our first satellite ground station built - the first cab off the rank so to speak.

"It will also be our disaster recovery or back up site. If any of the other nine sites around Australia should fail for whatever reason, then we would be switching the traffic from them to the Wolumla site," Mr Dawson said.

"A number of planets have to align for sites like this to be selected. That's all happened with the Wolumla site. It falls within the satellite design parameters that help us liberate maximum capacity from the satellite system"

Asked what exactly made it such a prime location, Mr Dawson explained: "On average - today excluded (!) - the rainfall is much better than further north. It's got terrific infrastructure including access to power and will be close to the backbone of our transit or core network," he said.

NBNCo has been negotiating with the Bega Valley Shire Council about the site for a number of months.

"We have to enter into some sort of agreement with BVSC.

"Part of the discussion we are having with them is about the best way to acquire access to the site.

"We then have to follow the council’s procedures and normal undertakings, including the usual consultations with the public and conducting due diligence etc.

"The ground station needs to be operational by 2015 when the satellites are launched. We want the facility completed in the next 18 months or so," Mr Dawson said.

So what can locals expect of the build?

"There will certainly be a lot of activity at the site. There will be earth works to start with to make the site ready, level it where the building and satellite antenna pads will be.

"There will be concrete pours before the single-storey building structure goes up.

"But the main feature that will be visible to people visiting the site will be the antennae or "dishes".

"They will come from overseas and be transported to the site in shipping containers and pieced together onsite.

"It may be that we appoint civil construction contracts on a state basis.

"For instance, one prime contractor to undertake all the NSW regional construction.

"They would then most likely engage local guys. There's no point in bringing concrete down from Sydney (for example)," Mr Dawson said.

Once the satellite ground station is built it will be run by specialist engineers.